Manners of the wild

An Introduction to Animal Behaviour. Fifth edition - Animal Behaviour. Sixth Edition
February 26, 1999

These two books are the latest of two long-running textbooks from either side of the Atlantic. The dedications that each carry best sum up their differences. Aubrey Manning and Marian Stamp Dawkins's text is dedicated to the great ethologist Niko Tinbergen and is mostly concerned with the mechanism and organisation of behaviour. John Alcock's offering is dedicated to the evolutionist George C. Williams and carries a more functional, sociobiological slant. Manning and Dawkins seem more concerned to portray animal behaviour as a quite separate discipline with its own internal logic, while Alcock situates it at the intersection of many different aspects of biology from neurons through to game theory.

There are also some differences in the contents. Alcock pays a little more attention to the nervous system but provides a cursory account of associative learning which is better covered by Manning and Dawkins. They are more faithful to the history of European ethology and devote half a chapter to the long-standing but problematic concept of motivation, while Alcock, more inclined to the tangible, omits the term entirely. His book which is about twice the other's size has self-contained chapters on sexual selection, mating systems, habitat selection and parental investment.

I would recommend the larger and more compartmentalised Alcock text for short or subsidiary courses in animal behaviour, especially those wishing to drive home the sociobiological message, and Manning and Dawkins for meatier courses with time to explore general principles of behaviour. Both are good. Both have some choice typos.

Thomas Sambrook is a teaching fellow at the department of psychology, University of Stirling.

Most animals are parasites. So why are the majority of animal biologists not parasitologists? I think we put students off. Like fine wine, appreciation takes time. But learning about wine is fun from the word go, while we usually strangle the diverse natural history of our beasties with taxonomic jargon. Current introductory textbooks may be fine once you have got students for the long haul. But how to get them to that stage?

The answer: give them Bernard Matthews. The taxonomic details are sketched in a single chapter while the rest of the book takes a Trials of Life-type approach to the problems parasites and their hosts solve. Until David Attenborough produces the long overdue Life of Parasites, Matthews is probably our best hope of attracting students.

Andrew Read is professor of natural history, University of Edinburgh.

An Introduction to Animal Behaviour. Fifth edition

Author - Aubrey Manning and Marian Stamp Dawkins
ISBN - 0 521 57891 4
Publisher - Cambridge University Press
Price - £18.95
Pages - 450

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