Animal Architecture, Mike Hansell, 2005: Animal

Bukupedia , 25.05.2005 - 335 Seiten


My aim in this book is to investigate and celebrate the biology of animal architecture.

I believe that by writing this comprehensive overview, it can be seen

that this is a coherent biological topic which gives us important insights. I last

did this 20 years ago (Hansell 1984), so it is interesting for me not only to see

how much the subject has developed during that time, but also how my views

have changed too.

Animal builders are patchily distributed through the animal kingdom, but

research effort is also unevenly distributed within that. Spiders in particular

have received a lot of research attention, from the level of their building material

to the functional design of webs and their foraging ecology. Bird nests still

remain rather under-researched, but there is a flurry of exciting research on

bowerbird displays. The book reveals a need for more information in a number

of areas, for example, on the composition and properties of self-secreted

building materials other than silk, and the mechanical properties of nearly all

structures other than spider webs. On the other hand we now have a much

better understanding of how simple organisms can build large complex structures,

and there have been developments in the ecological and evolutionary

concepts of niche construction and ecological inheritance to which studies of

animal builders have contributed.

This book recognises three broad categories of structure: homes, traps and

displays. Chapter 1 looks at the functional role of these: homes to protect

builders from the hostile forces of the physical and biological world, foraging

and feeding assisted by burrowing or by the use of nets or webs, and structures

for intraspecific communication, in particular the displays of bowerbirds.

Chapter 2 tests predictions relating to building materials: that self-secreted

materials will tend to be more standardised and more complex than collected

materials and that, because of this, they will tend to be more characteristic of

dynamic structures like traps than of static ones, exemplified by houses. In



fact, collected materials prove to be quite highly standardised, while the synthesis

of self-secreted materials does show some flexibility.

The process of building is examined in Chapters 3 and 4. Building anatomy

is shown to be generally unspecialised for delicate manipulative skills but

modified for power in many burrowing species. Building behaviour is found

to be simple and repetitive. These findings support predictions I have previously

made (Hansell 1984, 2000). The creation of very large and complex

structures is shown to be possible largely through a dialogue between the

builder and the developing structure in which building actions in response to

local stimuli change the stimulus situation; complex architecture is an emergent

property of self-organising processes. These principles apply equally well

to building by large workforces of social insects as to single individuals.

Animal tools are considered in the light of these findings, because they are

generally regarded as important in the context of human evolution, in spite of

being small and often of simple construction. Some tool makers are found to

show evidence of advanced learning and cognition, but assessment of these

attributes in builders generally suffers from lack of evidence.

Mechanics, growth, and design are the subjects of Chapter 5. Animal homes

show how building rules can be conserved while the structures grow with the

size of the individual or colony occupying them. Spiders' webs provide models

for the study of engineering in tension, while display structures, in particular

those of bowerbirds, provide possible models for the investigation of the

evolution of an aesthetic sense. In Chapter 6, the cost of home building and

its trade-offs with other life history traits is examined using examples of birds'

nests and caddis cases; on trap building costs and their consequences, spider

webs again supply the majority of the evidence.

Buildings change the world both for builders and organisms that associate

with them. These are the themes of Chapters 7 and 8. Predictions (Hansell

1987a, 1993) that builders, as ecosystem engineers, will tend to stabilise habitats,

resist extinction, and promote biodiversity are examined. The last of these

is clearly supported, although this is found to be largely through facultative

associations by organisms with constructed habitat niches. The limitations of

animal built structures as evidence of phylogeny is discussed, and the concept

of a key adaptation examined with the conclusion that arthropod silk has the

strongest claim to this title. Evidence that building has contributed to social

evolution (Hansell 1987a) is found to be inconsistent. Finally, builders are seen

to alter the course of their own evolution through ecological inheritance, the

passing on to their descendents of habitats that they have altered.



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1 Functions
nature origins and processing
behaviour and anatomy
4 Work organisation and building complexity
5 Mechanics growth and design
6 Building costs optimal solutions and tradeoffs
7 Animal architects as ecosystem engineers

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Über den Autor (2005)


Oxford Animal Biology Series


Professor Pat Willmer is in the School of Biology at the University of St Andrews.

Dr David Norman is Director of the Sedgwick Museum at the University of



Animal Eyes

M. F. Land, D-E. Nilsson

Animal Locomotion

Andrew A. Biewener

Animal Architecture

Mike Hansell


Mark Elgar (Melbourne) Gideon Louw (Calgary)

Charles Ellington (Cambridge) R. McNeill Alexander (Leeds)

William Foster (Cambridge) Peter Olive (Newcastle)

Craig Franklin (Queensland) Paul Schmid-Hampel (Zurich)

Peter Holland (Reading) Steve Stearns (Yale)

Joel Kingsolver (North Carolina) Catherine Toft (Davis)

The role of the advisers is to provide an international panel to help suggest

titles and authors, to ensure individual countries' teaching needs are met, and

to act as referees.

The Oxford Animal Biology Series publishes attractive supplementary textbooks

in comparative animal biology for students and professional researchers

in the biologiacal sciences, adopting a lively, integrated approach. The series

has two distinguishing features: first, book topics address common themes that

transcend taxonomy, and are illustrated with examples from throughout the

animal kingdom; secondly, chapter contents are chosen to match existing and

proposed courses and syllabuses, carefully taking into account the depth of

coverage required. Further reading sections, consisting mainly of review articles

and books, guide the reader into the more detailed research literature. The

Series is international in scope, both in terms of the species used as examples

and in the references to scientific work.

Animal Architecture

Mike Hansell

Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences,

University of Glasgow

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