الرئيسية Australian Veterinary Journal Bird bonds: sex, mateâchoice and cognition in Australian birds. G Kaplan. Pan Macmillan, 2019....
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AUSTRALIA’S PREMIER VETERINARY SCIENCE TEXT BOOK REVIEW BOOK REVIEW BOOK REVIEW Bird bonds: sex, mate-choice and cognition in Australian birds. G Kaplan. Pan Macmillan, 2019. 354 pages. Price $A34.99. ISBN 9781760554200. P rofessor Gisela Kaplan holds credentials as an Emeritus Professor of Animal Behaviour at the University of New England, Armidale, and an Honorary Professor at the Queensland Brain Institute. This is a thoughtful book, which displays clear evidence of the author’s expertise in both animal behaviour and brain science. To look at, the book is a shiny soft covered book printed on unbleached responsibly sourced paper. It would not look out of place on any bookshelf full of the modern slightly larger paperback novels that you might buy in an airport. Inside it is well set out with print that is large enough and to read and 10 chapters, each neatly divided into succinct sections of up to about 10 pages. The book is based on the hypothesis that Australia provided an environment where birds evolved sophisticated measures in order to choose the right partner for long-term success: ‘For years, we have been told that sexual selection may be as simple as an extra bright feather or a more complex song’. But Prof Kaplan takes her analysis to the next step: ‘… colours, sounds or even smells are not inherent properties of the object, but the product of the brain of the animal perceiving the object’. This leads onto a discussion of why cognition is just as important (and indeed linked to) the appearance and behaviours associated with matechoosing. Throughout the book, there are interesting references to humans and how we perceive the world and make our own choices. In particular, the chapter on mating systems and sexual selection describes in an orderly manner the types of systems that exist. 172 Australian Veterinary Journal Volume 98 No 4, April 2020 For example: polygamy vs monogamy vs territoriality; male vs female as the selector of a mate; whether the sexes should look the same or different;; ﬂocking and communal living vs solitary or territorial living; parenting styles – how long to look after the offspring and who does it. The chapter on the ‘heartache of ﬁnding a partner’ provides insights onto the lives of birds that mate for life, those that prefer casual relationships and those that do not mate at all. I did not realise that males who miss out tend to end up living longer than those that enter the mating game. The sex life of birds chapter, we humans are perhaps scolded a little about our tendency for anthropomorphism: ‘It is one of the less admirable traits of humans to make summary claims without the slightest hesitation or knowledge of the subject at hand…’. But perhaps this is with good reason, as many of the assumptions we make may not be true. Did you know that 97% of modern birds do not have a penis, and that the loss of the penis did not occur just once in evolution? Other questions considered by the book include: The boring business of monogamy; Parenthood, spoilt offspring and life-history rewards; self-control (vs peer control); and helplessness as an advantage. The book is by no means superﬁcial. Discussions about the anatomy of the bird brain, the hormonal cycles, and the development and perception of colour are detailed and well referenced. While not obviously peer reviewed, this book is the considered opinion of an expert in the ﬁeld and contains 29 pages of references at the end, along with a glossary and detailed index. I am a little unsure who the intended audience might be. I recommend Bird Bonds as a darn good read to anyone with an interest in Australian Birds or nature in general but also as a useful textbook for students of ethology, evolution and possibly human behaviour. DS Beggs doi: 10.1111/avj.12913 © 2020 Australian Veterinary Association