The badgers of Wytham Woods (Oxford, UK) have been studied continuously and intensively by David Macdonald for almost 50 years (25 of them with his former student and co-author Chris Newman), generating a wealth of data pertaining to every facet of their ecology and evolution. Through a mix of accessible, highly readable prose and cutting-edge science, the authors weave a riveting scientific story of the lives of these intriguing creatures, highlighting the insights offered to science more broadly through badgers as a model system. They provide a paradigm – from population down to molecule – for a deeper understanding of mammalian behaviour, ecology, epidemiology, evolutionary biology, and conservation. The real value of this long-term study is particularly apparent with current and globally relevant challenges such as climate change, disease epidemics, and senescence. This unique dataset enables us to examine these issues in a context that only a half-century experiment can reveal.
The Badgers of Wytham Woods will appeal to a broad audience of professional academics (especially carnivore and mammalian biologists), researchers and students at all levels, governmental and non-governmental wildlife bodies, and to the natural historian fascinated by wild animals and the remarkable processes of nature they exemplify.
Foreword, Lord John Krebs of Wytham
1. Setting the Scene: Births and Beginnings
2. It's Tough at the Bottom
3. Apprenticeships for Badger Society
4. Setts, Society and Super-groups: The Geology of Social Behaviour
5. The Sum of the Parts: Knowing One's Place in Badger Society
6. Social Odours: The Perfume of Society
7. Sex: How and Why, and with Whom?
8. Social Behaviour in an Uncooperative Society
9. Who Goes There: Friend or Foe?
10. The Ecological Foundations to Badger Group-Living
11. The Economics of Survival: Population Size, and Crashing through the Ceiling
12. Weather: Actuarial Insights
13. Weather: Behaviour at the Worm Front
14. The Game of Life
15. In Sickness and in Health
16. The Story of Badgers and TB: Perturbation and Beyond
17. Genetic Mate Choice: Quality Matters
18. Senescence, Telomeres, and Life-History Trade-Offs
19. Of the Same Stripe, or Not: Exceptions that Prove Rules
Professor David Macdonald CBE has been Director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University since founding it in 1986, and is also a Senior Research Fellow in Wildlife Conservation at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. He began research in Wytham Woods in 1972 and has been studying badgers since then. In 1986 he began the routine annual sampling of badgers which is the foundation of this book. A recent survey by BBC Wildlife magazine listed him amongst the ten most influential living conservationists, and he has twice been awarded the Natural History Author of the Year.
Chris Newman joined the Wildlife Conservation Unit at Oxford University in 1991, spending 15 years living on-site in the heart of Wytham Woods which gave him unprecedented access to the 300 badgers that shared his garden. In 2019 he moved to Novia Scotia to work as an independent ecological consultant.