Review Of "The Social Behavior Of Older Animals" By A. I. Dagg

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Why do some animals live beyond their peak reproductive years? Besides serving as a source of fascination for baby boomers, this question challenges evolutionary thought. Here, Dagg (Univ. of Waterloo, Canada) reviews many studies covering environmental knowledge, cumulative learning, teaching the young, social rank, sexual behavior, maternal behavior, and possible beneficial effects on the animals' descendants (grandmothering). Unfortunately the literature review revealed only one or two systematic studies on the behavior of animals as they age. The resulting book is a readable, often fascinating, collection of anecdotes, yarns, and outright speculation primarily on individual apes, elephants, wolves, dolphins, whales, and pets. This is not science; Dagg makes no effort to present data, to evaluate her often controversial statements, or to support the many cases in which she ascribes human emotions to animals. The reader is further confused by the frequent diversions into irrelevant animal rights issues. Despite the importance of the topic, this volume probably does not belong in undergraduate libraries, as few readers will have the ability to sort fact from fiction. Mature readers will find it entertaining. There are no graphs or tables, photographs, or drawings. Includes extensive references and a useful index. Summing Up: Optional. General readers.


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