This flower lives in a lush Alaskan meadow. But it’s survival depends on the deep ocean,
hundreds of miles away. What could possibly bind the two together? These guys – chum salmon. As adults, they patrol the Pacific, gorging
themselves and growing fat. But after a few years, The streams where they were born call to them. The salmon are hypnotized by smell of the
freshwater, flowing from melting snow on the mountains above. By the thousands, they mob together and charge
upstream. Eagles feast on the stampede of flesh. The salmon are relentless. They don’t even eat. They just swim. They’re reaching the end of their lives, But they have one last thing to do before
they die Females dig little nests in the gravel with
their tails. Then they lay their eggs, which the males
fertilize…. thoroughly. Then she covers them up. For most of these salmon, there’s no hope
of making it back to sea. It’s the end for them. But wait, this story isn’t done. One way or another, the salmon carcasses make
their way up onto the river banks, into the forest. But bears are sloppy eaters, they take their
favorite bits and leave rest to decay. That’s a score for these blow flies. They taste the flesh to make sure it’s to
their liking – but not because they’re going to eat it. Their kids will call this carcass home. The fly eggs hatch into maggots that set to
work devouring the salmon. Rotting flesh is their thing. When they’ve had their fill, the maggots
squirm off and bury themselves underground until they’re ready to emerge as adult flies. They scatter off to live their lives in the
forest. When they die or get eaten, the nutrients
from the salmon get spread throughout the ecosystem. Things like nitrogen, that plants need to
grow. So the river is like an artery – bringing
an influx of vital nutrients direct from the deep ocean. In these coastal forests, up to 80% of the
nitrogen in the plants can be traced back to the salmon And the blow flies have one more important job
– pollinating fields of flowers. It’s all thanks to these intrepid fish – who
nourish an entire ecosystem. Year after year. These little guys are baby coho salmon, ready
to take their first big journey out into the ocean. Make sure you’re in on our journey, and
hit that subscribe button. We’ll let you know about new episodes, twice
a month. And check out this episode of It’s OK to
Be Smart about why beavers are master builders. It’s from the same trip to Juneau, Alaska
where we filmed this episode. See you next time.