Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival

Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival

4.7 14
by Bernd Heinrich, Mel Foster

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From award-winning writer and biologist Bernd Heinrich comes this intimate, accessible, and eloquent illumination of animal survival in winter.See more details below


From award-winning writer and biologist Bernd Heinrich comes this intimate, accessible, and eloquent illumination of animal survival in winter.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The stories are plain engrossing—in their elucidation, their breadth of examples, and their barely contained sense of awe and admiration." —Kirkus
Publishers Weekly
How do bears, bees, frogs and other creatures stay alive in a barren, subzero landscape? A veteran natural history author and University of Vermont biology professor, Heinrich (Mind of the Raven) uses the New England winter as a laboratory for investigating the adaptability and evolution of animals. In short, dense, lucid chapters that will intrigue both natural history buffs and neophytes, Heinrich discusses the survival strategies-such as hibernation and nest building-of mammals, birds and reptiles. He shows how bears endure months of hibernation without losing muscle mass or bone density, how an air-breathing snapping turtle survives six months at the bottom of a frozen pond and how honeybees keep the temperature in their hives at a balmy 36 degrees Celsius no matter how cold it is outside. The narrative is full of exuberant first-person observations from Heinrich's walks through the Maine and Vermont woods ("I hit the tree with an ax. One flying squirrel with huge black eyes and soft gray pelage popped its head out.... After I started to climb the tree I saw three heads looking out. No-it was four!"), and he reflects on such subjects as the ethics of hunting and the implications of animal survival strategies-particularly the bear's ability to stay in shape without exercise-for human health. Throughout the book, Heinrich returns to the example of the mysterious golden-crowned kinglet, a bird whose tiny body-not much bigger than a walnut-loses heat so quickly that it seems to defy the rules of winter survival, and whose perseverance symbolizes the improbable, miraculous feats of endurance of all the animals of the north. Nature lovers will delight in this lively, fascinating study. (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This account of how wild animals survive in cold winters is based in large part on the writer's own astute observations of the behavior of a variety of species of birds, squirrels, mice, insects, and other creatures. Heinrich (biology, Univ. of Vermont; Mind of the Raven) has a cabin and property in the Maine woods, which often serves as a living laboratory for him and his students. One of his special interests, which he discusses at length here, is how the tiny golden-crowned kinglet, a bird not much larger than a hummingbird, survives the long, harsh winters of New England. Heinrich is constantly observing and asking questions about what he sees, giving readers an inside glimpse at the workings of science and nature. At times, he also relates the research of other scientists, always in understandable English. A more scholarly, less personal treatment of this subject is provided by Peter J. Marchand's Life in the Cold: An Introduction to Winter Ecology, now in its third edition. Heinrich's book is recommended for public and undergraduate college libraries.-William H. Wiese, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An array of ways to beat the cold when central heating isn’t an option, from National Book Award nominee Heinrich (Racing the Antelope, 2001, etc.).

The cleverness of evolutionary design is everywhere on display in this look at how animals cope with winter. Like the good teacher he must be at the University of Vermont, Heinrich takes pains to be clear, laying a groundwork of information for what follows. He starts at the molecular level, explaining the properties of water and the difference between heat and temperature, then providing an outline of various life-maintenance techniques used by creatures from insects to bears--methods that include aestivation and brumation, freezing point depression, antifreeze, ice-nucleation sites, thermal hyteresis, and supercooling, all allowing these organisms to survive the "regularly occurring famine" that winter brings on its heels. Heinrich’s description of snow’s thermal qualities makes it understandable that a broad range of animals use it for insulation, but what he clearly delights in are the startling discoveries resulting from fieldwork undertaken by both himself and others. We learn about the differing bill morphologies of birds, about the spring peepers and chorus frogs that freeze solid after suffusing their cells with glucose, the arctic ground squirrels that heat up from their torpor to get a little REM sleep, and the chronobiology of flying squirrels as they set their internal clocks without external cues. There’s the role of camouflage, as in the weasel turning white, and the unique architecture of birds’ nests ("the more different or exotic the nest appearances there are for different species, the less any one would stand out topredators"), not to mention the many insects, whose "success is derived from exploiting individual specificity." Heinrich relates each creature’s method as a story, slowly revealing its canny, outrageous, or dumbfounding aspects--letting the reader sit back and marvel.

The stories are plain engrossing--in their elucidation, their breadth of examples, and their barely contained sense of awe and admiration. (Drawings throughout)

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Product Details

Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged, 8 CDs, 9 hrs 30 min
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 5.30(h) x 1.10(d)

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From the Publisher
"The stories are plain engrossing—-in their elucidation, their breadth of examples, and their barely contained sense of awe and admiration." —-Kirkus

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