Animals as Architects

The first structure visible from space was made by wombats.



Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Built by Animals: The Natural History of Animal Architecture By Mike Hansell (Oxford University Press, $29.95)

The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, among the tallest buildings on earth, accommodate about 20,000 people and are roughly 250 times as tall as their inhabitants. An impressive example of human engineering, no doubt; but according to Mike Hansell, a professor emeritus of animal architecture at the University of Glasgow, even creatures with very small brains create some pretty amazing structures. For example, in Australia scientists have found a termite mound 22 feet tall. That’s about 800 times as tall as its 5 million inhabitants. Equally impressive are several burrows built by wombats that are so extensive they have been detected from space. Hansell describes the elaborate homes, traps, and webs of the animal kingdom and outlines the evolutionary processes that give rise to building behavior. I. M. Pei may not find much use in studying a beaver’s dam or a mud dauber’s nest, but for natural history buffs, the animal architecture Hansell describes will answer a lot of questions and spark even more.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2023 Kalmbach Media Co.