By Popular Request!

Okay, one request, but sometimes that’s plenty!

Here’s my list of animal behavior books written for a popular and semi-popular audience. This list is biased toward books published some time ago; remember I got them all or almost all back when I was in grad school.

Innocent Killers, by Hugo van Lawick and Jane Goodall. It focuses on Cape Hunting Dogs, golden jackals, and spotted hyenas (one of the VERY FEW mammal species where females are dominant, and a GREAT species to think about when designing a new species for your SFF novel!).

Here Am I — Where Are You, by Konrad Lorenz, one of the founders of ethology. It focuses on graylag geese, which have this really great system of very intense male-male friendships, very interesting.

Mongoose Watch, by Anne Rasa — dwarf mongoose, another species where females are dominant to males; a very interesting, highly social species.

Elephant Memories, by Cynthia Moss — African elephants, and really outstanding.

Portraits in the Wild, by Cynthia Moss — well-presented, accurate brief observations about lots of the large East African mammals.

The Man Who Listens to Horses, by Monty Roberts is really interesting and engaging and also gives a nice picture of wild horse behavior as well as training methods based on natural horse behavior.

Almost Human, by Shirley Strub — savannah baboons. Stupid title, but the book is good.

Baboon Mothers and Infants, by Jeanne Altmann — savannah baboons

Primate Societies, by Smuts et al — prosimians, tamarins and marmosets (another female-dominant species), New World monkeys, colobines (the forest leaf-eating monkeys and langurs), cercopithecines (the macaques and so forth), baboons, gibbons, orangutans, gorillas, chimps, bonobos.

Peacemaking Among Primates, by Franz de Waal — and lots of other titles; highly, highly recommended for chimps, bonobos, gorillas particularly. de Waal is a wonderful writer.

Wolf: The ecology and behavior of an endangered species, by L David Mech

The Culture Clash, by Jean Donaldson, for how dog’s are really wired psychologically

The Emotional Lives of Animals by Beckhoff and Goodall, because that’s a great book on a really neglected aspect of behavior.

Dolphin Societies by Karen Pryor and Kenneth Norris

Cetacean Societies by Mann et al, for bottlenose dolphins, sperm whales, killer whales, and humpback whales, and let me just mention here that I just got this one, that I’ve been reading it this week, and that killer whale behavior is SO WEIRD. You know what? In some populations, both male and female offspring stay with their mother for their whole lives! Which is called male-female philopatry, in case you’re interested. You know how many other mammal species do that? Right: zero. This never happens! Figuring out what ecological factors encourage and allow this unique system in killer whales is the sort of thing that can really add depth to your own SFF species and world. Also, you won’t believe the parallels between common chimps and bottlenose dolphins, and between sperm whales and African elephants. Why do we see such convergent behavior? Again, because of ecological factors which are more similar than first appears.

And if you want to have a female-dominant species? Well, take a look at what creates that system in spotted hyenas, dwarf mongooses, and tamarins, and you’ll have a much better chance of designing a species where that system makes since.

Remember all the time that behavior depends on ecological pressures and that you can’t have a female-dominant species unless ecological factors are pushing behavior that way.


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2 thoughts on “By Popular Request!”

  1. Drops CETACEAN SOCIETIES into the shopping cart for her sister’s Christmas present. (sister used to be heavily involved in the Monterey Bay Aquarium and now lives in Oregon watching whales and such).

    Prints out list to track down what she can to read for herself.

    Thanks for posting it!

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