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Built by Animals: The natural history of animal architecture Paperback – 29 Jan 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (29 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199205574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199205578
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 2 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 538,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

Hansell has written a typically eloquent account of a fascinating manifestation of animal life. He seamlessly weaves scientific method and understanding into the observations of nature that so clearly have inspired him. (Maggie Reilly, Glasgow Natural History Society)

Chatty yet profoundly learned. (The Independent)

About 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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Format: Hardcover
. . . to be a builder", says Hansell, and goes on to demonstrate that with a photo of a house built by "Difflugia coronata". It's a spiked sphere with a nicely decorated front entry - tasteful, if rather enigmatic, one looks in vain for the resident. Not one of those clever wasps that pulps paper to tuck a nest under your eaves or one of the swallows that brings mud to accomplish a similar task, D. coronata is a micro-organism: an amoeba that collects tiny sand grains to build itself a shelter. An amoeba?? How does it accomplish this? Hansell responds, as he must do often in this fine study, "we don't know".

Animal building hasn't been a topic of intense study as the author frequently reminds us. However, he's good at demonstrating what we do know and what further work needs doing. He poses several good questions - how much of an animal's building skill is genetically inherited? How important to animals is the idea of standardised material [think "bricks" in human construction]? Which animals produce structures the equivalent of three times the size of any human office building? What planning steps are required for an orb spider to form its web? Finally, and what might be the most pertinent of all, what is a tool and is that what distinguishes human builders from the other animals?

As Hansell poses these questions, he goes on to show how some of the answers have been obtained. He explains the varieties of construction behaviour - how an African rat may have an extended burrow system with up to several hundred entries, for example. Logic demands this is an indication of a group endeavour, but the entire system is inhabited by one rat. We think birds intuitively construct complex nests from their first effort.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm more of a visual person and like lots of pictures in my 'interest' books. However although I've not finished reading it I find it a fascinating read. It was an impulse purchase and being cheap I bought it. It's given me some interesting ideas for my art work, (and I don't mind it's mainly text)
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hansell makes a strong case for animals building, trapping and making difficult decisions in a state of blissful ignorance : they clearly have no concept of causal relationships.
An interesting issue this book provoked for me, is the one of human self-awareness and behaviour; how do we arrive rational descisions?
My one real criticism, contrary to another positive review, was that the author digresses a lot, which I felt actually interrupted the flow and coherence of the arguements.
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