Harvard University Press
June 23, 2000
Can the structures that animals build – from the humble burrows of earthworms to towering termite mounds to the Great Barrier Reef – be said to live? However counterintuitive the idea might first seem, physiological ecologist J. Scott Turner demonstrates in this book that many animals construct and use structures to harness and control the flow of energy from their environment to their own advantage.
Building on Richard Dawkins’s classic, The Extended Phenotype, Turner shows why drawing the boundary of an organism’s physiology at the skin of the animal is arbitrary. Since the structures animals build undoubtedly do physiological work, capturing and channeling chemical and physical energy, Turner argues that such structures are more properly regarded not as frozen behaviors but as external organs of physiology and even extensions of the animal’s phenotype. By challenging clearly held assumptions, a fascinating new view of the living world is opened to us, with implications for our understanding of physiology, the environment, and the remarkable structures animals build.
J. Scott Turner is Associate Professor, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse.