Mar 4, 2015

The Marvels of Animal Behavior

edited by Thomas B. Allen

This book is from the National Geographic Society, part of their natural science library series. The chapters are written by over 20 different authors and scientists on animal behavior. Most of them from work in the field. A few are broad discussion on things like migration, how animals learn and different social orders among the animal kingdom. The majority have a specific focus: the shift of territorial boundaries between hyena clans, social order of bee colonies, echolocation in bats, how bison bulls vie for dominance, whale songs, penguin colonies, the courtship behaviors of fish. Featured animals also include storks, african lions, mountain gorillas, elephants, ants and wildebeest. Although the book is really outdated (for example, at the time it was written bat sonar and whale songs were new discoveries, nobody knew about elephants' subsonic communication and how birds navigate was still largely a mystery) I still learned many things and enjoyed the reading overall. For the first time I read the words of George Schaller! Another chapter is written by Dian Fossey (the other authors were unknown to me).

I recognized a number of the photographs- especially the ones of an albino gorilla- from my parents' collection of old National Geographic magazines- I used to look through the pictures a lot. Back then I hardly ever read the articles, so I don't know if the chapters in this book are just reprints of selected articles, or were written specifically for this volume. The publication data and acknowledgements are unclear on that. I did notice, if they were originally magazine articles, how focused they are on the science and the animals. Whereas I often feel that current articles I read (because I'm interested to learn about the wildlife) are just as much a travelogue- you get more about the place, its politics and relevant difficulties as information about the science and animals themselves.

Rating: 4/5         422 pages, 1972

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