Animal Architects: Building and the Evolution of Intelligence

James L. Gould, Author, Carol Grant Gould, Author Basic Books $26.95 (324p) ISBN 978-0-465-02782-8
In order to elucidate the thought processes of animals-and those processes' evolution-the Goulds (The Animal Mind) consider those animals' egg caches, cocoons, webs, nests and other structures. According to the authors, ""complex nervous systems exist to make sense of the world""; therefore, by examining the material construction sprung from those nervous systems, one can begin to understand how those systems function. It makes a fascinating journey, with plenty of surprises. Beginning with the simplest structures of ants, wasps and bees, the authors introduce concepts of neural mapping to show what levels of brain complexity are necessary for the construction of such structures. Distinguishing instinctual neural program from questions of spontaneity and creativity, the Goulds suggest that creatures as small as wasps can react with spontaneous problem solving behaviors. The creativity of bower birds and beavers is more astounding: the former is known to build and decorate ""maypoles,"" clearly demonstrating aesthetic sense; and the latter display abstract reasoning, and even insight, in the maintenance and repair of their lodges, dams and canals. This book is filled with fascinating vignettes illuminating the intelligence capabilities of species us humans would like to think of as inferior; again and again, the Goulds show that human beings aren't necessarily the smartest kids in class.
Reviewed on: 02/26/2007
Release date: 03/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 324 pages - 978-0-465-02838-2
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