We know that animals cross miles of water, land, and sky with pinpoint precision on a daily basis. But it is only in recent years that scientists have learned how these astounding feats of navigation are actually accomplished. With colorful and thorough detail, Nature's Compass explores the remarkable methods by which animals find their way both near home and around the globe. Noted biologist James Gould and popular science writer Carol Gould delve into the elegant strategies and fail-safe backup systems, the invisible sensitivities and mysterious forces, and incredible mental abilities used by familiar and rare species, as they investigate a multitude of navigation strategies, from the simple to the astonishing.
The Goulds discuss how animals navigate, without instruments and training, at a level far beyond human talents. They explain how animals measure time and show how the fragile monarch butterfly employs an internal clock, calendar, compass, and map to commence and measure the two-thousand-mile annual journey to Mexico – all with a brain that weighs only a few thousandths of an ounce. They look at honey bees and how they rely on the sun and mental maps to locate landmarks such as nests and flowers. And they examine whether long-distance migrants, such as the homing pigeon, depend on a global positioning system to let them know where they are. Ultimately, the authors ask if the disruption of migratory paths through habitat destruction and global warming is affecting and endangering animal species. Providing a comprehensive picture of animal navigation and migration, Nature's Compass decodes the mysteries of this extraordinary aspect of natural behavior.
James L. Gould is professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University. Carol Grant Gould is a science writer who has published widely. Together, the Goulds have written nine earlier books, including The Animal Mind and Animal Architects.
"Nature's Compass: The Mystery of Animal Navigation is an excellent resource for interested arm-chair ecologists and also undergraduate students who wish to understand the scientific history of analysis of how animal navigation occurs. At the same time, Nature's Compass: The Mystery of Animal Navigation is also an excellent book describing how sometimes it is difficult for Homo sapiens to accept the cognitive intelligence and capacity of others who reside in our animal kingdom even when we are presented with the bare facts supporting these obvious assertions."
– Gabriel Thoumi, MongaBay.com
"Research on animal navigation sits at the interface of physics, biology, and many different cultures, and has seen many heated debates, past and present. Nature's Compass is an excellent introduction to the field and hopefully will serve as inspiration for new research [...] I found it enjoyable and would recommended it to anyone interested in the subject."
– Anders Hedenström, Times Higher Education
"This scholarly and engaging book is the first in more than twenty years to summarize for the layman the latest research on the wonders of animal navigation [...] Comprehensive and fascinating, the book cites extensive research, including a significant amount conducted by the authors themselves. While illuminating, the book also raises many questions that it cannot yet answer. We have much to learn from these wondrous creatures but, as this book makes clear, much of their mystery remains."
– Kristen Rabe, Foreword Reviews
"Nature's Compass is as much about navigation as it is about animals' abilities to navigate. Biologist James Gould and science writer Carol Gould fully describe the information needed for navigation, accurately pointing out that this applies equally to a diversity of organisms ranging from butterflies to humans. Their description serves the work well since readers gain an appreciation of the challenges and mysteries surrounding animal navigation [...] Overall, this is a fascinating treatment of animal navigation. Readers will gain insight into how animals manage to navigate in three dimensions, including a profound appreciation of their ability to 'solve' complex problems."
"While this is certainly a book for birders, beekeepers, and lovers of the natural world, it's also a book for sailors, pilots, and anyone who has ever had trouble finding their car in the parking lot."
– Susan Meadows, Santa Fe New Mexican
"This fascinating and wonderful books presents a thorough and integrated picture of animal navigation. Outstanding."
– Kenneth Lohmann, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
"Though animals are the book's stars, animal-navigation scientists come a close second. The innovation and sometimes pure cheek of experiments contrived to learn about nature's compasses are fun to read about."
– Barbara J. King, Times Literary Supplement
"What the Goulds have written is both an absorbing tale of biological discovery and a tantalizing scientific cliffhanger."
– Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History
"Nature's Compass provides a wonderful account of efforts to unravel the mysteries of animal migration. Effectively drawing on their own experiences and the extensive scientific literature in the field, the Goulds explain what we currently know about how animals locate their positions. Their survey also offers an accessible starting point for those who might wish to improve our understanding of the topic."
– Homare Yamahachi, Science
"James L. Gould and science writer Carol Gould explain the amazing ways in which animals orient themselves and make their way through the world. Scientist James details biology experiments that reveal how animals measure time, locate landmarks, and direct themselves across the globe, while writer Carol eloquently shows readers the beauty of the monarch butterfly's trip across the United States and into Mexico, the complex dance of honey bees, and homing pigeons' internal GPS system. Throughout the book, the authors combine their strengths to demonstrate both the scientific wonder and beauty of the internal compasses in animals. With an eye toward larger issues, the Goulds also examine the ways in which global warming and habitat destruction affect and endanger these magnificent and complex animals [...] Recommended."
– Susan E. Brazer, Library Journal
"Nature's Compass is a captivating introduction to animal navigation. It draws readers into a world in which myriad creatures outperform humans in every way possible. Enlightening and thought-provoking, this book is a comprehensive exploration of the topic and shows how an understanding of navigation may be critical for conservation."
- Irene M. Pepperberg, author of Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence – and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process"
"No aspect of animal behavior has been more mysterious, generated more controversy, and perhaps been more inspirational to the human psyche than the many ways that diverse animals calculate their position in space relative to a home base. This timely review of the massive scientific literature on the topic lays out the history, problems, and status by practitioners of the field."
- Bernd Heinrich, author of Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival