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Built by Animals: The Natural History of Animal Architecture

Overview

Bowers gleaming with baubles and beads, delicate webs of silk, towering mounds complete with air-conditioning, and graceful cradles sewn from leaves-these are just some of the remarkable feats achieved by animal architects.
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Built by Animals: The natural history of animal architecture

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Overview

Bowers gleaming with baubles and beads, delicate webs of silk, towering mounds complete with air-conditioning, and graceful cradles sewn from leaves-these are just some of the remarkable feats achieved by animal architects.
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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.)

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From the Publisher

"The book is a fascinating read, with personal anecdotes and reflections blending into thought-provoking explorations of the various themes."--J. Scott Turner, American Scientist

"When...does a giant golden digger wasp stop digging its burrow and start excavating the terminal chamber? Is it when she feels she has done enough work, or when the burrow is long enough? Hansell, an evolutionary biologist specialising in animal architecture, knows the answers and can tell a good story. Great stuff."--ew Scientist

"This methodical book discusses some of the intriguing scientific investigations that have been made into animal engineering."--Publishers Weekly

"It is to the eternal credit and pride of humanity that scientists like Mike Hansell strive with insight and ingenuity to catalogue the wonders of the natural world and to convey their findings in such enthusiastic fashion to the rest of us blinkered anthropocentrics."--Discover

"Unusual and fascinating"--Publishing News

"This fascinating assemblage of the world's animal architects will fill a niche in all collections."--ooklist

"The book is a fascinating read, with personal anecdotes and reflections blending into thought-provoking explorations of the various themes."--American Scientist

"Recommended for general readers: lower-division undergraduates through graduate students." -- J. Burger, Choice

"Covering the who, what, and why of animal construction, Hansell reveals the blueprint of structures that can rival human architectures."--Science News

"Anyone with an interest in animal behavior will like this book."--Birdbooker Report

The Barnes & Noble Review
It is to the general discredit and shame of humanity that most of us know far more about the eating disorders of pop stars than we know about the complicated suite of manipulations employed by mountain gorillas in preparing a favorite type of thorny vegetation for consumption: "...a total of 256 recognizable handling techniques..." The resulting "bundles of thistles," opines naturalist Mike Hansell in Built by Animals, is much more complicated than, say, a paper airplane but more easily overlooked. "If gorillas made paper aeroplanes rather than food bundles, then every museum would have one and every schoolchild would know about them." In Hansell's enthralling survey -- and exploration into the evolution -- of the various structures created by the non-human inhabitants of our planet (and their tool usage as well), this kind of lively, fanciful, vivid talk alternates quite frequently with sturdy, lucid, astonishing blueprints of animal, insect, and even amoeboid behavior. (Behavior plus materials equal structure, is Hansell's formula.) Hansell's tour de force might be his nearly 15-page disquisition on the construction and physics of a spider's orb web. Often directly addressing the reader, and encouraging amateur scientists to conduct their own investigations, Hansell remains rigorously rational and empirical, while not neglecting higher-level speculative questions regarding non-human consciousness -- all without falling into anthropomorphism or the mindless gosh-wowery of certain nature documentaries. It is to the eternal credit and pride of humanity that scientists like Mike Hansell strive with insight and ingenuity to catalogue the wonders of the natural world and to convey their findings in such enthusiastic fashion to the rest of us blinkered anthropocentrics. --Paul DiFilippo
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199205578
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/15/2009
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Mike Hansell is Emeritus Professor of Animal Architecture at the University of Glasgow. Author of Animal Architecture and Bird Nests and Building Behavior, he is a leading authority on animal building.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures vi

List of Plates vii

Preface ix

1 The Builders 1

2 Builders Change the World 26

3 You Don't Need Brains to be a Builder 58

4 Who's in Charge Round Here? 92

5 From One Nest to Another 121

6 Two Routes Lead to Trap Building 147

7 The Magic of the Tool Users 180

8 Beautiful Bowers? 216

Notes and References 252

Index 258

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