Swarms, herds, flocks, troops, schools, colonies, clans: animals like to stick together. Sometimes their societies hold a mirror up to the human world. Did you know that rats will go out of their way to help a cold, wet stranger? That ants farm edible fungus in special gardens? That pinyon jays run collective creches? Or that elephants hold funerals for departed family members? At other times, their lifestyles can seem intensely alien, such as when locusts surge over the land in their millions, unable to slow down for a moment because the hungry ranks behind them will literally bite their legs off if they don't stay out of reach. (Actually, you probably do know a few people like that.)
But no matter how offputting an animal might be, behavioural scientist Ashley Ward can usually find something worth celebrating about it. Travelling the world from the Serengeti to the frozen Antarctic ocean, with stops in the muddy fields and streams of his native northern England, he brings his curious eye and infectious humour right down to their level. The result is a world-expanding, myth-busting tour of some of nature's greatest marvels, in delightfully broad-minded company.
Born and bred in Yorkshire, Dr Ashley Ward is currently a professor in Animal Behaviour at the University of Sydney, the culmination of a career spent studying the behaviour of animals from tiny Antarctic krill to mammals, including humans. He has published over 100 scientific journal articles and a highly cited academic book. The Social Lives of Animals is his first trade book.