The Animal in Its World: Explorations of an Ethologist, 1932-1972, Volume 1

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Harvard University Press, 1972 - Science - 348 pages

Together with Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen is generally acknowledged as the founder of the young science of ethology. Professor Tinbergen has spent a lifetime of research exploring the behavior of many types of animals in their natural environments, and has founded centers of worldwide renown for research and teaching in the behavioral sciences, first in his native Holland and later at Oxford. His influence extends far beyond the borders of Europe and of zoology proper, and he has contributed substantially to international and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Tinbergen's work has been characterized by many as a “breath of fresh air” in fields that were in danger of losing touch with nature and of becoming bogged down in theory. He has tirelessly worked for the use of scientific methods in the study of human behavior, both normal and abnormal. Without shying away from quantification and measurement, he has made his main contribution in what Sir Peter Medawar calls “creative observation” and in the design of meaningful experiments, even in the seemingly chaotic and continuously varying conditions of the natural habitat.

In following him in what Tinbergen likes to call his seemingly aimless wanderings, the reader will catch a unique glimpse into the workshop of ethology. Even when reporting on sophisticated experiments, or when developing new theoretical concepts and arguments, Tinbergen writes simply, lucidly, and precisely. The present volume spans forty years of pioneer investigation and includes selections on the behavior of gulls; on the homing, landmark preference, and prey findings of the digger wasp; on the food hoarding of foxes; and on creatures living scattered as a defense against predators.

These classic original studies will fascinate the increasing number of readers interested in the topical problems of animals and human behavior.


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Living scattered as a defence against predation

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About the author (1972)

Nikolaas Tinbergen, a Dutch zoologist, with the Austrian biologist Konrad Lorenz founded the field of modern ethology---the study of animals in their natural surroundings. The two men shared the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine with Karl von Frisch (see Vol. 5) in 1973. Convinced of the sterility of much contemporary comparative and experimental psychology, and appalled at the far-reaching generalizations made by psychologists on the basis of observations of a few species of caged rodents, Tinbergen set out to study a few highly specific problems in animal behavior: the nature of the stickleback's courtship, the stimuli causing a young herring gull to beg for food, and the reasons gulls bother to remove empty eggshells from their nests. His influential book The Study of Instinct (1951) had a tremendous impact on the development of ethology. Ethologists believe that instinct is a motivational basis for human behavior as well as for animal behavior and hence that ethological studies have valid human applications. Tinbergen is particularly concerned that human beings are in danger of losing their ability to adapt because of the very rapid changes taking place in contemporary society. He thinks there is much we can learn from close study of animal adaptation.

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