Rutendo and Sebastian explore death and its role in the natural world. For Sebastian, death is a permanent state, a complete end to a life. But for Rutendo and her family, death is just a temporary parting. Around the world burial customs differ, but throughout nature, death and decay provide sustenance to other life-forms.


Sebastian explores the extraordinary diversity within the ground, with soil ecologist Frank Ashwood, who explains that a single teaspoon of healthy soil contains more than a billion organisms. Among them, the nematode worm – the most abundant organism on the planet.


Wildlife pathologist Simon Spiro performs a post-mortem on an elderly cheetah from Whipsnade zoo, and takes us through ZSL’s archive of specimens from nearly 120 years of animal post-mortems. Samples such as worms from the gut of a European bison, or stones from the stomach of a llama, are used to help scientists learn more about the basic biology of each species.


Rutendo and Sebastian are joined by TikTok star Mamadou whose animal fact videos have brought him more than 15 million followers. Rutendo and Mamadou bond over their shared belief that jaguars are disrespectful, and he leaves Sebastian with a disturbing story about Pelicans.



The BBC Earth podcast is presented by Sebastian Echeverri and Rutendo Shackleton.

The producers were Rachel Byrne and Geoff Marsh.

The researcher was Seb Masters

The Production Manager was Catherine Stringer and the Production Co-ordinator was Gemma Wootton.

Podcast Theme Music was composed by Axel Kacoutié, with mixing and additional sound design by Peregrine Andrews.

The Associate Producer is Cristen Caine and the Executive Producer is Deborah Dudgeon.


Special thanks to

Simon Spiro from the Zoological Society of London.

Soil ecologist Frank Ashwood.

Jennifer Jerret from The Acoustic Atlas at Montana State University for providing the soundscape from Yellowstone National Park.

Mamadou Ndiaye who can be found on TikTok under @mndiaye_97

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