The author states at the outset that this is a book for the interested non-specialist. It is by no means light reading, especially in the first part, which covers the way in which animals perceive their environment and what determines how they respond to it. The more technical language, however, becomes better understood by the reader once an example is given. Subjects discussed range from how a maggot responds to light intensity to the motor actions of a bird building a nest and the inflexible sequence in which it does so.
As an amateur naturalist I’m not sure that I grasped everything in the first part of the book but it set the scene for the second part, which gave many examples that I have already witnessed. This part explains the evolutionary forces that have shaped and developed particular behaviours, including why some animals live in packs while some prefer to live on their own; why some have more than one mate while others are monogamous; why some have only one young at a time and others have litters or broods, and many more fascinating facts, scientific studies and theories.
The book finishes with an extremely valuable question and answer section.
I thought I knew quite a lot about the rutting of fallow deer but I now have many new aspects of their rut that I intend to look out for.
This is a book that would seriously augment any type of study of animals, and amateur naturalists like me will also learn much from its pages. It is made all the more interesting by the extremely professional black and white illustrations done by the author’s wife, wildlife artist Catherine Putman.
Understanding Animal Behaviour by Rory Putman. Whittles Publishing, Dunbeath, Caithness, Scotland, KW6 6EG. £18.99