The scientific study of animal behaviour, ethology, is a field that attracts a breadth of interest, and not only from professional biologists. It favours the integration of research and scholarship from a range of disciplines, from mathematics to psychology. The subject also lends itself to a narrative approach in so far as a wide range of examples supports theories and concepts.
Lee Dugatkin has written an imaginative and innovative text, lavishly and colourfully illustrated, in which he has meshed together two sometimes conflicting emphases in ethology with considerable success. The biologist's traditional focus on natural selection and on proximate factors, such as neurology or biochemistry, is balanced against the sociologist's and psychologist's focus on learning theory and aspects of culture. These subjects are the basis of four foundational "primer" chapters. Then follow chapters on such behavioural topics as aggression, territoriality and foraging.
It is good to see ageing and disease covered, as they are often neglected in biology texts, as well as the controversial subject of animal personalities. In all these chapters Dugatkin weaves together the many strands that make up ethology.
Two features I particularly like are the integration of human behavioural features into the main text and "boxes" at the end of each chapter containing interviews with leading scientists such as John Maynard-Smith and E. O. Wilson.
The book is well referenced and has a useful glossary. It will be particularly suitable for first and second-year undergraduates, and should also have considerable appeal to the lay public.
Richard D. Jurd is senior tutor in biological sciences, University of Essex.
Principles of Animal Behavior. First edition
Author - Lee Alan Dugatkin
Publisher - Norton
Pages - 596
Price - £36.99
ISBN - 0 393 97659 9