Built by Animals : The Natural History of Animal Architecture
Booklist Reviews 2007 November #1
When animals, from the simple amoeba through spiders and termites to birds and primates, build, do they have a plan? If not, and the animal is simply programmed to build, how can the resulting structure be so sophisticated? These and other questions about the structures that animals build have intrigued emeritus professor Hansell since his undergraduate days. Here, in his first book written for a lay audience, he surveys the builders of the animal kingdom to discover the patterns, similarities, and differences in how and why animals create structures. After an initial chapter discussing the types of builders, Hansell examines how builders change their world, the role of brains in their ability to build, whether builders in colonies need a "boss," the types of nests and traps they build, the use of tools, and what we can learn from the courtship structures built by Australia's bowerbirds. Although many of the scientific theories and examples used are complex, Hansell's guidance makes the chain of logic clear. This fascinating assemblage of the world's animal architects will fill a niche in all collections. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.
PW Reviews 2007 September #4
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.)[Page 53]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.