Advice on Animal Behaviour book

Feb 13, 2013

Discussion by: Gil Henriques

I realise that this might be a bit too narrow in scope to spark an interesting decision, but I find myself in need of some advice. I am graduating on Evolutionary and Developmental Biology and, having completed the course on Animal Behaviour (which I adored) I decided to order a textbook so that I could explore the area in greater detail. I gather that Goodenough and Alcock’s books are the most widely used textbooks, so if anyone has any experience or knowledge about the area, I would appreciate if you could give me some advice on which of them might be better, their relative strengths, weaknesses, and their different foci.

Professor Dawkins being an ethologist (I hear he was tutored by the great Tinbergen himself!) I hope this thread is not too far away from this forum’s scope.

5 comments on “Advice on Animal Behaviour book

  • I have John Alcock’s book – it’s wonderful. It was fun to read through, even parts that weren’t assigned for my class. I haven’t looked at any other books, though, so I can’t compare them. My professor selected it in order to examine behavior from an evolutionary perspective, though, so that may be its strength over other textbooks. (He also considered using The Selfish Gene as well.)

    Now that I’m looking at Amazon, I wish I could order others. =D

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  • In reply to #1 by Kim Probable:

    Hey, put them in your wishlist, why not? And there’s always the library. They’ll often order stuff in if you request it.

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  • 3
    Gil Henriques says:

    Thank you #1! 🙂 I will have a look at it.

    My professor also recommended Behavioural Ecology: An Evolutionary Approach (by Krebs and Davies) and Étienne Danchin’s Behavioural Ecology.

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  • 4
    matt.cavanaugh.262 says:

    I’m a professional horse trainer. E.O. Wilson’s “Sociobiology” is always a solid start. Lorenz is flawed, and worth picking up only at a discount. Temple Grandin’s “Genetics and the Behavior of Animals” is pricey but desirable; her “Animals in Translation” is targeted for the lay reader, but still highly enlightening. For equine-focused works that still lend insight on general behavior, check out Bill Dorrance, “True Feel Through Horsemanship”, any & all words from Buck Brannaman (incl. the film, BUCK), and especially Perry Wood, “How to Create the Perfect Riding Horse.” The Western horseman of the Hunt/Dorrance Bros./Whitney/Brannanam School may not be aware of ethology, but they’ve stumbled upon the truth nevertheless. And, as you’re a fan of Tinbergen, I recommend Hans Kruuk, “Niko’s Nature”, if simply for the vicarious joy of discovery.

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  • Animal Play Behavior, Robert Fagen. He’s a local ethologist, nice guy. He was emeritus, I believe, by the time I got to college. I have not read this book, I just know of it.

    “A scholarly, well-written, and richly illustrated statement of play behavior in numerous animal species, including our own … Fagen reviews the existing literature for nearly 500 animal species through extensive references (1,895 by my count) that include offerings in a number of specialized disciplines, ranging from natural history to formal mathematical modeling. The result is a feast; the courses are rich and varied … Fagen’s heroic review highlights important issues for further investigation … Well worth reading.” –Contemporary Psychology


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