Built by Animals: The natural history of animal architecture

Front Cover
OUP Oxford, Oct 18, 2007 - Science - 280 pages
4 Reviews
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? 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.

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User Review  - benjamin7857 - LibraryThing

In terms of relative size, the mound structures built by the Australian termite species Amitermes laurensis far surpass anything we humans have ever built, and they incorporate ventilation and ... Read full review

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User Review  - TurtleBoy - LibraryThing

Hansell's book offers a refreshingly skeptical view of the incidence and importance of construction, toolmaking, and tool use by non-human animals. This author's central thesis is that however ... Read full review

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About the author (2007)

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 iAnimal Architecture/i (OUP, 2005); iBird Nests and Construction Behaviour/i (CUP, 2000, Awarded the RoyalSociety of Edinburgh Neil Medal); and iAnimal Architecture and Building Behaviour/i (Longman, 1984).

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