Built by Animals, By Mike Hansell

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The Independent Culture

Chatty yet profoundly learned, Hansell challenges our anthropomorphic wonder at animal structures ("We are builders and that leads us to admire other builders") while revealing the extraordinary "structural complexity" of mud shrimp burrows and badgers' setts.

One of the latter was found to have 879 metres of burrow leading to 50 chambers and 178 exit holes. Occasionally, Hansell's train of thought can be equally circuitous, but the book is packed with insights. He conjectures that our delight in beauty may stem from the same instinct that prompts such structures as bowerbird nests, though not honeycombs, which are naturally formed by hot wax flowing round bees.

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