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The Time When Sir David Attenborough Helped Solve A Murder

The Time When Sir David Attenborough Helped Solve A Murder

We guarantee you didn't know these surprising facts about David Attenborough

Laura Sanders

Laura Sanders

Born on 8 May 1926, Sir David Attenborough is 95 years-old-today.

We all know him as the man who made the world wake up to climate change, as well as being responsible for some of the most iconic nature documentaries ever made, but did you know he once helped solve a murder? No, really.

In this list, we take a look at some of lesser-known facts about our national treasure.

1. David Attenborough once helped to solve a murder

David Attenborough discovered a skull from a 19th century murder in his garden '

In 2011, the BBC reported that a skull which had been dug up in Sir David Attenborough's garden in West London belonged to a murder victim from 1879.

In a case coined 'the Barnes Mystery', widow Julia Martha Thomas was murdered by her maid, Kate Webster, in the 19th Century - but her head was never found. That is, until builders discovered the skull in Richmond in 2011.

Carbon dating and historical records helped the coroner to rule that the skull did in fact belong to Julia Martha Thomas. Case closed.

2. David Attenborough is probably the most travelled human in history, besides astronauts

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon '

At the start of his TV career, David Attenborough was already travelling to places most of us could only dream of. Over his lifetime, he's ticked off every continent in the world and racked up some serious air miles.

His first foreign assignment was in Sierra Leone in 1956 for the TV series Zoo Quest. And for his 1998 series Life of Birds alone, he travelled more than 256,000 by plane, according to Eden TV.

The only other people considered to have travelled further than Sir David are astronauts. Although, Sir David did once express his interest in travelling to the moon, if it could ever be done in an hour.

It's therefore not surprising that he's considered the most travelled man and TV broadcaster on Earth (excluding astronauts), when he's been crossing continents since 1979. What we wouldn't give for some of the stamps on his passport!

3. Several species have been named after David Attenborough

The Cascolus Ravitis is one of several species to be named after David Attenborough '
BBC Newsround

From great sea creatures to minute fossils, Sir David Attenborough's name has been attributed to a number of species.

Most recently, researchers named the Cascolus Ravitis - a tiny fossil which was discovered in ancient volcanic rock - after David Attenborough. According to the BBC, 'Cascolus' is Latin for 'Attenborough' and 'Ravitis' is Roman for 'Leicester' - where he grew up.

Other species named after Sir David include:

  • Pleiosaur Attenborosaurus Conybeare - a sea creature which was alive around the same time as dinosaurs
  • Electrotettix Attenboroughi - a grasshopper species which was found preserved as a fossil in the Caribbean
  • Zaglossus attenboroughi - also known as the 'long-beaked echidna,' this animal can be found in Papua New Guinea and it somewhat resembles a hedgehog
  • Uptychia Attenboroughi - a very rare species of butterfly which lives in the rainforests of Brazil and Colombia. Sir David is said to be very fond of butterflies
  • Trigonopterus Attenboroughii - a flightless weevil (a type of insect) which can be found in Indonesia
  • Materpiscis Attenboroughi - an ancient fish whose fossil has been discovered in Western Australia.

4. If David Attenborough could be any animal, he'd be a sloth

David Attenborough would be a sloth if he could choose any animal '
Unsplash/Javier Mazzeo

In a Twitter Q&A in 2018, he said that if he could reincarnate, he'd come back as a sloth. Why? Perhaps it's the slow pace of life sloths have which Sir David admires.

During the BBC Two documentary, Life of Mammals, Sir David asked: "With a reaction time only about a quarter as fast as ours, how does a sloth's day compare to ours?"

He then noted that in the time it takes his camera crew to film another sequence for the series, it would be 'time for another nap' for the sloth.

They're not the most 'enthusiastic' or quickest of creatures, and they're half-blind and half-deaf. But there is something rather cute about them as they go about their day at a leisurely pace, so we can understand Sir David's admiration of them.

5. David Attenborough is afraid of rats

David Attenborough is afraid of rats '
Unsplash/Sandy Millar

We can't imagine Sir David Attenborough having any animal-related phobias when he's spent a large amount of his working life stooped down in rainforest bushes with all sorts of creepy crawlies.

But actually, he admitted in his book, New Life Stories: "If a rat appears in a room, I have to work hard to prevent myself from jumping on the nearest table."

We're with you on that one, Sir David.

6. He can communicate with wolves

No. He's not replacing Taylor Lautner in a new Twilight film.

During the filming of Life of Mammals for BBC Two, the broadcaster demonstrates a spot-on wolf impression as he explains the importance of communication between animals for survival.

Take a look for yourself in the video player below.

7. But he doesn't have a driving license

David Attenborough turns 95 this year and he still doesn't have a driving licence '

Despite serving in the Royal Navy for two years when he was younger, and seeing some of the World's most extraordinary sites, Sir David never actually got round to passing his driving test, according to this fact file.

8. He was a thrifty child and found a unique way to make money

David Attenborough was a thrifty child and made money selling newts '

At age 11, Sir David made his pocket money by selling newts for 3d (3 pence) each. They only came from the pond located five metres outside the Zoology department.

9. He never watches his own programmes

David Attenborough - BBC
David Attenborough - BBC

In a Q&A with BBC Wildlife, Sir David admitted he never watches his own TV programmes. He said, "By the time they go out, if you've not already watched them 50 times then you've not done your job properly." But he does watch other people's nature documentaries.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: UK News, Celebrity, Sir David Attenborough, Animals