Wednesday, November 08, 2006

IN THE WOMB: ANIMALS To Premiere On National Geographic Channel With State-of-the-Art 4-D Ultra-Sonography

National Geographic Channel Takes You IN THE WOMB For An Unprecedented Voyage Into The Hidden World Of Animal Pregnancy

State-of-the-Art 4-D Ultra-Sonography Provides a Remarkable Look

Inside the Development of an Elephant, Dolphin and Dog

Shadowy black-and-white 2-D ultrasound pictures have for years shown expectant mothers pictures from in the womb. Now, advanced ultrasound technology is moving from the doctor′s office ... to the veterinarian′s. For the first time, viewers are led inside the wombs of three mammals - elephant, dolphin, and dog - to trace their vastly different paths from conception to birth and uncover evolutionary clues to the animals′ ancestral past by observing the fetus′ in-utero development.

Building on the success of last year′s critically acclaimed special, IN THE WOMB, the National Geographic Channel (NGC) presents IN THE WOMB: ANIMALS, an unprecedented two-hour world premiere special that takes you inside the hidden world of animal pregnancy in a way never before possible. Premiering Sunday, December 10, 2006, at 8 p.m. ET/9 p.m. PT, the special features state-of-the art visual effects, computer graphics and real-time, moving 4-D ultrasound imagery to take viewers inside the unique world of animal fetal development. For the first time, these pictures shed light on how an elephant, a dolphin and a dog develop in the womb.

Witness a single cell less than half a millimeter across develop into a baby elephant weighing over 260 pounds. Watch as a dolphin fetus learns to swim inside the mother′s womb. And see the incredible images of a dog fetus exhibiting some of the same behaviors as your family pet ... while still in the womb. Finally, watch as growth inside the womb reveals the evolutionary path of these animals, such as when the elephant develops ducts normally found in freshwater fish, suggesting its ancestors once swam in the seas.

Far longer than a nine-month human pregnancy, elephant calves develop for almost two years in the womb Ñ the longest gestation period of all mammals. IN THE WOMB takes viewers inside the womb during all phases of development. At 16 weeks, the elephant fetus starts to look more like an elephant as the trunk develops and it looks plumper toward the rear. At almost a year, the trunk is growing longer than the legs.

By 14 months, the fetus′ characteristic elephant ears are visible, and will grow to almost two feet across to help regulate the body temperature of the fully grown elephant. Return at 19 months to find our elephant fetus covered in bristly hair and taking on a wrinkly appearance, as well as weighing more than 143 pounds and gaining over a pound a day. At birth, he will have grown to weigh nearly 260 pounds and be able to take his first steps in just minutes.

While a baby elephant quickly learns to walk after birth, the dolphin calf is born ready to swim and adapt to life under the sea. From conception to birth, the dolphin fetus will spend a year protected by the mother″s womb. Marvel as the dolphin fetus develops leg-like limb buds early in the pregnancy that simply disappear as the fetus grows. Scientists believe this is evidence that the dolphins′ ancestors once lived on land.

At about six weeks into the pregnancy, taking up more room in the uterus, the fetus curls its tail fin around its body. Two weeks later, 4-D scans show the dolphin fetus beginning to swim in its own private and protected world. During the next few weeks, it will develop flippers, a tail and a blowhole. By 29 weeks, the dolphin fetus is moving its eyes and using each independently, giving the dolphin a 320 degree field of vision. The dolphin must still develop ears, which look like tiny holes behind the eyes. After one year, the baby dolphin is born underwater, and must be able to quickly swim to the surface to take its first breath of air. When its muscles are fully developed, the dolphin will be able to jump 16 feet into the air and dive as much as 3,000 feet below the ocean surface.

While an elephant and dolphin fetus take far longer to grow in the womb, IN THE WOMB: ANIMALS illustrates the accelerated pregnancy of a golden retriever, which happens in just over nine weeks. Unlike elephants, which usually produce just one fetus at a time, dogs (all 400 different breeds) can produce multiple puppies in one litter. At 30 days, the dog embryo has reached the halfway point, and within days, the legs begin to form - the paws are paddle shaped and webbed with ridges. Soon, the dog fetuses will open their mouths and stick out their tongues in a panting-like fashion. They will also start to move so much that they can be seen from the outside as a rippling motion. And inside, the adjacent fetuses will be touching.

It isn′t until day 45 that the nose, the dog′s most advanced sense organ, is clearly visible. Approximately a week later, the golden retriever fetus will have a full coat of light cream hair, and soon the whiskers will be clearly seen. At 61 days, the mother prepares to give birth, which, for the entire litter, can take from less than an hour to as long as 36 hours. Unlike the elephant and dolphin, which must be able to able to swim or walk at birth, the pups are born helpless and blind, but with sensitive hearing and sense of smell to help them locate their mother′s teats.

IN THE WOMB: ANIMALS opens a window into fetal development in the animal kingdom, unlocking mysteries of one of nature′s most remarkable journeys - from conception to birth. And premiering Sunday, January 14, 2007, is a third In the Womb special as the National Geographic Channel premieres IN THE WOMB: MULTIPLES, which uses the same groundbreaking technology to take viewers into the extraordinary world of twins, triplets and quadruplets as they develop in utero and engage in their first interactions with each other while still in the womb.