WHY ANIMALS BEHAVE THE WAY THEY DO by

WHY ANIMALS BEHAVE THE WAY THEY DO

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An unsystematic introduction to ethology, with a little preliminary material on the rise of the science but with the bulk of the text arranged as answers to separate questions: Why does a gorilla beat its chest? Why do rhinoceroses take mud baths? Why do wolves howl? Some of the answers are simplistic (Patent's Bears of the World gives us a far better understanding of hibernation in no more space); some are more like descriptions than explanations of the behavior (to say that the crane mating dance ""reinforces the established union"" doesn't tell us much); some are set up to debunk come-on questions (""Why do crocodile mothers swallow their babies?""); many convey interesting facts (porcupines don't really shoot their quills) or anecdotes (a clever orangutan regularly picked his cage's lock with wire he kept hidden in his mouth); but only on the subject of bird song, where we get four questions together, is there anything like a coherent review of a topic. Though Walter begins and ends with a focus on ethologists, he leaves them out of his specific entries--which makes the answers seem sometimes more conclusive than they should be, harder to evaluate, and ultimately less interesting. Add to this his frequent use of deliberate sentence fragments and his flip comments--""Gorillas are often smarter than some Hollywood producers""; a rattler ""would rather twitch than fight""; lions ""with their can't-do-a-thing-with-it hairstyles are about as inconspicuous as an eighteen-wheeler cruising an Interstate across a Kansas prairie""--and it's clear that the misguided attempts to catch superficial interest overshadow the ideas.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1982
Publisher: Scribners