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From the shell wars of hermit crabs to little blue penguins spying on potential rivals, power struggles in the animal kingdom are as diverse as they are fascinating, and this book illuminates their surprising range and connections.
The quest for power in animals is so much richer, so much more nuanced than who wins what knock-down, drag-out fight. Indeed, power struggles among animals often look more like an opera than a boxing match. Tracing the path to power for over thirty different species on six continents, writer and behavioral ecologist Lee Alan Dugatkin takes us on a journey around the globe, shepherded by leading researchers who have discovered that in everything from hyenas to dolphins, bonobos to field mice, cichlid fish to cuttlefish, copperhead snakes to ravens, and meerkats to mongooses, power revolves around spying, deception, manipulation, forming and breaking up alliances, complex assessments of potential opponents, building social networks, and more. Power pervades every aspect of the social life of animals: what they eat, where they eat, where they live, whom they mate with, how many offspring they produce, whom they join forces with, and whom they work to depose. In some species, power can even change an animal’s sex. Nor are humans invulnerable to this magnificently intricate melodrama: Dugatkin’s tales of the researchers studying power in animals are full of unexpected pitfalls, twists and turns, serendipity, and the pure joy of scientific discovery.
About the Author
Lee Alan Dugatkin is an animal behaviorist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science in the Department of Biology at the University of Louisville. He is the author of more than one hundred and fifty papers and the author or coauthor of many books, including The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness.
"Power struggles in the animal kingdom are still not entirely understood, not least when they take place in many more arenas and forms than the most obvious one of physical conflict. Spying, deception, manipulation, shifting social networks—all these are covered here. The author looks at more than thirty species across six continents." — Bookseller
“A brilliant journey into the intricate dramas of animal behavior and evolution. Along the way, we also see the scientific process in vivid light, a wonderful exposition of how to deepen understanding of the living world.” — David George Haskell, Sewanee: The University of the South, author of Pulitzer finalist "The Forest Unseen" and Burroughs medalist "The Songs of Trees"
“Power, and the way it is won and lost, unites angelfish and weaverbirds, ravens and cockroaches. By revealing its stunning variety in nature, Dugatkin shows how power isn’t necessarily abusive, or ugly—it’s simply a fact of life. From confrontation to espionage, with coalitions formed and dissolved, his absorbing stories explore how animals juggle their relationships and play a long game.” — Marlene Zuk, Regents Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, author of "Paleofantasy" and "Sex on Six Legs"
“Entertaining anecdotes and scholarly science effortlessly entwine in this delightfully raucous romp through decades of research on the nature of power in the animal kingdom. A great read whether you’re a student, scientist, or amateur animal behavior enthusiast.” — Athena Aktipis, Arizona State University, author of "The Cheating Cell"
“‘Biology’ means ‘the study of life,’ and it requires the story of life. Admirers of Dugatkin’s acclaimed books such as How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) know that he tells rousing stories about nature and how scientists decipher its mysteries. There could not be a more pervasive aspect of life than power dynamics, nor one that more greatly influences nature’s slow change over time. For fans of both science writing and nature writing, Power in the Wild teems with enough animals and scientists around the world to satisfy David Attenborough—whose urbane narration comes to mind as one enlightening glimpse of nature follows another in this lucid and lively celebration of nature's diversity.” — Michael Sims, author of "Adam’s Navel" and "The Adventures of Henry Thoreau"