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Built by Animals: The natural history of animal architecture
     

Built by Animals: The natural history of animal architecture

by Mike Hansell
 

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From termite mounds that in relative terms are three times as tall as a skyscraper, to the elaborate nests of social birds and the deadly traps of spiders, the constructions of the animal world can amaze and at times humble our own engineering and technology. But how do creatures with such small brains build these complex structures? What drives them to do it? Which

Overview

From termite mounds that in relative terms are three times as tall as a skyscraper, to the elaborate nests of social birds and the deadly traps of spiders, the constructions of the animal world can amaze and at times humble our own engineering and technology. But how do creatures with such small brains build these complex structures? What drives them to do it? Which skills are innate and which learned? Here, Mike Hansell looks at the extraordinary structures that animals build - whether homes, traps, or courtship displays - and reveals the biology behind their behaviour. He shows how small-brained animals achieve complex feats in a small-brained way, by repeating many simple actions and using highly evolved self-secreted materials. On the other hand, the building feats or tool use of large-brained animals, such as humans or chimps, require significantly more complex and costly behaviour. We look at wasp's nests, leaf-cutting ants, caddisflies and amoebae, and even the extraordinary bower bird, who seduces his mate with a decorated pile of twigs, baubles, feathers and berries. Hansell explores how animal structures evolved over time, how insect societies emerge, how animals can alter their wider habitat, and even whether some animals have an aesthetic sense.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Hansell (Animal Architecture), emeritus professor of animal architecture at the University of Glasgow, looks at termite nests, amoeba cases, caddis larvae traps and birds' nests and wonders how creatures with brains so much smaller and simpler than those of humans can create such complex structures. This methodical book discusses some of the intriguing scientific investigations that have been made into animal engineering, from the organization of social insects that work together to construct their nests to the impact of animal architecture on the environment. Hansell describes the biochemistry and mechanical properties of spiders' webs; computer models that simulate the building of nests by wasps; the mathematical models constructed by theoretical biologists to demonstrate how animals transmit information from generation to generation; and laboratory experiments showing that honey bees can learn and retain information about spatial relationships. This emphasis on precision is balanced by one "carelessly undisciplined question" when Hansell looks at the elaborately decorated structures male bower birds build to attract their mates and wonders whether it might be possible that nonhuman animals have the capacity to appreciate beauty. His engaging discussion provides ample reason to pursue the inquiry. B&w illus. (Dec.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780191578601
Publisher:
OUP Oxford
Publication date:
10/18/2007
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Mike Hansell is Emeritus Professor of Animal Architecture at the University of Glasgow. He has published numerous books and research papers on aspects of animal architecture including Animal Architecture (OUP, 2005); Bird Nests and Construction Behaviour (CUP, 2000, Awarded the Royal Society of Edinburgh Neil Medal); and Animal Architecture and Building Behaviour (Longman, 1984).

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