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Built by Animals: The Natural History of Animal Architecture Paperback – March 15, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0199205578 ISBN-10: 0199205574

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (March 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199205574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199205578
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.8 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #632,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"With a small midsection of color photos, the volume is a worthy read for anyone with even a slightly academic interest in the projects animals undertake."--The Green Life

"The book is a fascinating read, with personal anecdotes and reflections blending into thought-provoking explorations of the various themes."--J. Scott Turner, American Scientist

"When...does a giant golden digger wasp stop digging its burrow and start excavating the terminal chamber? Is it when she feels she has done enough work, or when the burrow is long enough? Hansell, an evolutionary biologist specialising in animal architecture, knows the answers and can tell a good story. Great stuff." -- ew Scientist

"This methodical book discusses some of the intriguing scientific investigations that have been made into animal engineering."--Publishers Weekly

"It is to the eternal credit and pride of humanity that scientists like Mike Hansell strive with insight and ingenuity to catalogue the wonders of the natural world and to convey their findings in such enthusiastic fashion to the rest of us blinkered anthropocentrics."--Discover

"This fascinating assemblage of the world's animal architects will fill a niche in all collections." --Booklist

"Unusual and fascinating." -- Publishing News

"The book is a fascinating read, with personal anecdotes and reflections blending into thought-provoking explorations of the various themes." -- American Scientist

"Recommended for general readers: lower-division undergraduates through graduate students." -- J. Burger, Choice

"Anyone with an interest in animal behavior will like this book."--Birdbooker Report

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If you look at a skyscraper made by humans, you can't help being impressed by the complexity of the construction and the coordination of hundreds of planners and workers that went into it. And yet termites build proportionately bigger structures which show planning in such things as ventilation and heat regulation. How is it that animals with such tiny brains can create such massive and complicated structures? If building by a group of creatures is remarkable, then surely also remarkable are the webs built by spiders, or the nests (especially the woven ones) built by birds. What is going on in the brains of creatures who build? We don't have firm answers, but in _Built by Animals: The Natural History of Animal Architecture_ (Oxford University Press), biologist Mike Hansell tries to make sure we are asking the right questions, and he describes research accomplished and proposed to get the answers. He has written academic works on this subject, and this is his first one for the non-specialist. He dips into technical discussions just enough, and the topic is inherently fascinating. Animals build homes all over the place, for protection from weather and predators, but they also build traps, and male bowerbirds make structures that have no purpose other than impressing potential mates. This is an excellent overview of what animals build, with plenty of examples and with fascinating discussions about the experiments used to tease out answers to how the creatures learned construction.

Hansell first introduces the Central American caterpillar _Aethria carnicauda_, which uses the same sort of protective gadget. When it is ready to make itself into a pupa, it first picks a straight plant stem.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By fernbrun92 on April 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
Built by Animals: The Natural History of Animal Architecture

Built By Animals is a book in which different patterns in Behavior and architecture are shown with the use of examples from the vast diversity of ecosystems in the planet, to explain to an extent the behavior and possible thought processes behind these structures and analyzing what this can tell us about evolution, intelligence, and a view of what defines art. The audience is able to engage and learn about the many different techniques that animals use in architecture which includes nesting, and living conditions, mating, predation even social interaction between species. This book provides a pleasant journey through the world.
Author Mike Hansell is currently an Emeritus Professor in the University of Glascow. He has also written many research papers on animal architecture as well as the different characteristics of nesting for many bird species. And his deep interest in the intricate behavior behind this architecture is shown deeply throughout the book, being written for all audiences, presents to be somewhat challenging, yet entertaining and fun for all readers.
The book is divided by eight chapters, each of them covering a different aspect of the behavior and the different examples of animal architecture in the world. Chapter one focuses on a brief introduction to the category of animals known as "builders" this chapter serves as the first encounter of the animal kingdom in which we can first appreciate the many different techniques or approaches to building a shelter.
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25 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Ralph White on January 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Built by Animals

It's a captivating title and a captivating cover photo. And anyone who makes the effort to understand the natural world will come to this book with some appreciation of animal architecture, if not from personal observation, then from nature TV. Moreover author Mike Hansell's credentials are exactly those you would expect. So why is this book so unsatisfying? After all, the author treats us to some of the animal construction that we expect, caterpillar cocoons, beaver lodges and dams, ant tunnels, and mud dauber nests. And he introduces us to much that we do not expect, naked mole rats tunnels, hairy-nosed wombat warrens, European badger setts, "magnetic" termite mounds, and amoeba shells. And, although it doesn't relate to animal construction, Hansell also includes a very good chapter on tool use by animals. It also asks, in a chapter-long unanswered question, who makes the design decisions in a colony of hundreds or thousands of residents.

But the reader expects Professor Hansell to answer as well as ask the questions. Unfortunately the answers are all too infrequent. The treatment of the construction of the web of the orb web spider, Araneus diadematus is a rare exception. It is truly excellent, and very satisfying, but it appears to have been written by a different person (a graduate student, perhaps?). Overall the book fails for three reasons. The first is Hansell's painfully self-conscious writing style. We are not reading about animal architecture, we are reading about Hansell writing about animal architecture. We even catch him writing to himself, as in "but let me not get carried away..." The second reason is the pointless digression, as when he describes the nerve centers for avian vocalization.
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