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That come from outer space

Part of the first season of “Humboldt’s Heirs” (ZDF), partly based on research within the DFG project “Evolutionary ecology of the gastropods of Lake Baikal”

May 31, 2021


Image Credit: Frank Riedel

That come from outer space

First broadcast on ZDF: January 21, 2001, 7:30 p.m., 45 minutes

Authors: Gisela Graichen and Jens Dücker

Partly based on research within the DFG project “Evolutionary ecology of the gastropods of Lake Baikal” (together with Prof. Dr. Helmut Keupp, Free University of Berlin)

Scientific background and content of the film

The title of the film refers to neutrinos, elementary particles that hit the earth as a component of cosmic radiation. In fact, the film is about three independent research teams whose common interest is Lake Baikal. One of these teams is engaged in neutrino research using detectors that were sunk in Lake Baikal. The team from the Free University of Berlin, led by Frank Riedel, is dealing with Lake Baikal itself. The history of how the lake came into being is of central importance. How did the seals get into the lake anyway? Did the lake once have a connection with the Caspian Sea as Alexander von Humboldt suspected? How does the food web work? Baikal is the oldest and deepest lake on our planet and represents a natural laboratory of evolution. Several thousand animal and plant species exist here that cannot be found anywhere else on earth. The team is on the trail of this fascinating diversity, in summer and winter, diving, under water and under ice, with the research ship and the rowing boat, and on foot on land. There are sediments there that were once deposited in Lake Baikal and contain fossil remains of organisms, which can provide information about the development of life in Lake Baikal. Without understanding temporal dynamics, Lake Baikal's complex ecological network cannot be understood and therefore protected. Lake Baikal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and must be preserved.

Reach and audience reactions

The film was broadcast for the first time on ZDF on a Sunday evening as part of the first season of “Humboldt's Heirs” in prime time and was watched by around 5 million people. There have been some repetitions, but probably not more recently. Compared to later films, there was less direct contact with viewers, which is certainly due to the fact that the service of the television stations has now improved significantly and viewers can more easily access the (email) addresses and telephone numbers of the scientists involved can reach. The presentation of our own working group was consistently rated positively. However, the coexistence of different, non-communicating groups of researchers was sometimes criticized.


Foto: O. Ulanova