Review: Wildlife Spectacles

In the rapidly paced technological world, it's sometimes hard to remember that we share this planet with thousands of animals of all shapes and sizes, which live, eat, mate and die in an endless cycle that's gone on for millennia. In Wildlife Spectacles: Mass Migrations, Mating Rituals and Other Fascinating Animal Behaviors, Vladimir Dinets (who has a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Miami and wrote Dragon Songs) provides a close-up look at the fascinating birds, mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians that coexist with us on earth. Beginning with the concept of mass migration, Dinets discusses what the world was like before it was subdivided and largely subdued by humans. He writes:

"Wild animals could migrate freely, and did so in numbers we can't imagine. The first European travelers to the New World reported bird flocks filling the entire sky for many weeks every year, hundreds of whale spouts visible in the sea in every direction, millions of bison moving across the plains, masses of salmon making rivers flow backwards."

Although those numbers have diminished over time, Dinets examines the migratory patterns of ocean creatures, land mammals and birds, and provides readers with tips on the best places and times of year to view these migrations. In fascinating detail, Dinets discusses the courting and mating rituals of insects like the firefly--actually a type of beetle, with each species having its own distinctive color and blinking code--and mammals like the Tule elk, found in California. He also considers bellowing alligators that perform a type of nighttime "dance" to attract a mate, as well as the variety of complex behaviors that have evolved in numerous species to help them survive. Adaptive behavior and evolutionary changes have led many species to become predators rather than prey, while others have learned ways to escape predation, by using bright colors, toxins in the skin, special alarm calls that warn of predators, advanced hearing mechanisms or mimicry. Moreover, every species in the food chain has an effect on those above and below it, and Dinets debates the pros and cons of introducing an alien species to a particular environment.

Wildlife Spectacles is captivating and entrancing with both its information on a multitude of species and the full-color photographs throughout. Their stunning beauty is as much a reason to read this book as the text is. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer
Shelf Talker: A zoologist examines the natural world and the fascinating creatures that share the planet with humans.

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