The world of animals is really fascinating. Unlike the human race, animals come in myriads of shapes, colours and show an astounding range of behaviour. They don't speak like humans, but they can communicate among themselves quite effectively, using chemicals, postures, and different kinds of vocalisation. But till only a few decades ago, little was known about the social life of animals, except that of a few domesticated species. Developments in technology, both in cinematography and electronics, have since enabled scientists to study animals right in their own environs and record intimate details of their social life. Using electronic image intensifiers, super-sensitive films and special cameras and lenses, scientists can now study any animals from tiny insects, birds and reptiles to the most elusive mammals and fish residing in any terrains, ranging from waterless deserts to tropical rain-forests and oceans. At the same time there has also been a sizeable increase in he number of scientists actively involved in observing and studying animals in the wild. All these developments have led to a new under standing of animal behaviour and their social lives.
The wealth of knowledge about the social life of animals, gathered by intrepid naturalists during the past few decades using modern technology is truly astounding. It has long been known that the social behaviour of animals is dominated by two essentials-staying alive and multipl8ication of the species. Till recently, however, not much was known about the strategies different species had evolved to achieve these tow goals. In fact, as we know now, many misconceptions flourished about animals that even led to the decimation of many species. But the new studies have turned many of our old ideas on their heads, bringing out entirely unknown facets of animal life that rival even human behaviour. They have brought out the extreme limits to which some species go to defend their territory, woo their mates and protect their offspring. Some of their actions are truly amazing. But in the animals world few confrontations over territory, or mate, end in death. And most species follow strict hierarchical social systems that are rarely transgressed. In fact, in some respect, we cans ay most animals are more civilised' than us humans, as this book amply brings out.
The animal world showcases some of the most outstanding examples of parental care. For example, the ferocious-looking crocodile not only guides her young ones to water soon after hatching, but also carries them tenderly between her fearsome jaws. The male Emperor penguin incubates the eggs and protects the chicks from the frigid Arctic winter by standing over them for as long as four months without eating. During this period it may lose upto half its body weight! The female hornbill locks herself in within her tree-hole nest till the eggs hatch and the chicks are able to fly, only to protect the chicks from predators! The care for baby elephants that members of a herd show is legendary. There are many, many such examples.
The author Dr Sukanya Datta has not only brought together many such astounding, yet little-known, facts about the social life of animals that will enthrall readers of all ages, but also put them together in her inimitable style that readers will enjoy reading. There are few books on animal behaviour published in India. I'm confident this volume will help fill the void to a large extent.
Sociability in animals tends to be overshadowed by that of humans. However, even a cursory look reveals the richness of social traits inherent in animal society. Making friends, standing by comrades, nurturing young, celebrating kinship, recognizing a boss, mourning a loss, wooing a mate or cheating on a rival-animals do it all, though rigid relationship rules, and not emotions, may guide them. This book will enchant the reader and perhaps catalyse a change of vision-from regarding Nature as being 'red in teeth and claw' to a more charming perspective of the brotherhood of animals.
Dr. Sukanya Datta acquired her doctorate in Zoology from the University Institute of Science Communication, CSIR, New Delhi, where she now works as a scientist. Dr. Datta has been actively involved in the popularization of science, and has authored many popular science books. Besides contributing articles and book reviews in various newspapers and journals, she also writes radio scripts.
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