Sunday, January 30, 2011

Book Review: Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival

From tiny golden-crowned Kinglets to insects with antifreeze, this book covers almost everything!  That sounded like an advertisement, but it was a great book.  I found it in our library at the park and read it when I needed a break from other projects.  It didn't take very long--the reviews are right when they say Bernd Heinrich is a talented science writer.  I've read another of his books, last summer on my own time...Mind of the Raven.  That's also a book I would recommend.  I liked it so much I took it to Washington with me, reading it on the plane and on the ferry rides.

This book explores the worlds of small animals, including insects and amphibians, to discover how they survive very cold temperatures during the winter to emerge in the spring ready to continue their lives.  The Kinglets are the highlight of the book because they are so small, but are able to survive New England winters.  They are tiny birds, weighing no more than two pennies (a few ounces), with nothing but feathers and body fat to get them through 16-hour nights in the freezing temperatures.  They actually eat frozen catepillar larvae during the day, all day long, to build up enough energy to survive the winter and keep themselves warm.  They, along with animals like squirrels and other birds, huddle for warmth and shiver to keep themselves warm.

Bats and mice enter torpor, where their body temperatures are very low, but not so low as to freeze to death.  They can't be too warm either, because that would make them shiver, and that uses too much of their energy resources.  Basically they would die of starvation.

Bears hibernate all winter without eating, drinking or using the bathroom.  In humans, toxins build up too much for us to be able to do that.  Also, it's thought that bears don't age as they hibernate...wouldn't that be great for us?  Their cubs are born and the sleep right through it!

Anyway that's a small sample of the animals described in this book but I thought it was great.  I've had fun this winter watching Dark-eyed Juncos and Juniper Titmice, wondering how they are able to hop around in just their feathers when I have several layers on and all I want to do is get inside and stay there!  They eat all day and huddle at night--they also fluff out their feathers so there are extra layers of warm air trapped, to protect them from the cold.

I've just picked up another book from the visitor center to read--The Animal Dialogues by Craid Childs.  I just started it but it looks promising!  I'm also trying out a couple recipes from cookbooks we sell so I can write review cards on those...that's the part I'm really looking forward to!

1 comment:

Gilbrides said...

Those books sound very interesting. I always love hearing about good books. Hope you have fun trying out the recipes and writing reviews on them!