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The Extended Organism

The Extended Organism

The Physiology of Animal-Built Structures

J. Scott Turner

ISBN 9780674009851

Publication date: 09/30/2002

Can the structures that animals build--from the humble burrows of earthworms to towering termite mounds to the Great Barrier Reef--be said to live? However counterintuitive the idea might first seem, physiological ecologist Scott Turner demonstrates in this book that many animals construct and use structures to harness and control the flow of energy from their environment to their own advantage. Building on Richard Dawkins's classic, The Extended Phenotype, Turner shows why drawing the boundary of an organism's physiology at the skin of the animal is arbitrary. Since the structures animals build undoubtedly do physiological work, capturing and channeling chemical and physical energy, Turner argues that such structures are more properly regarded not as frozen behaviors but as external organs of physiology and even extensions of the animal's phenotype. By challenging dearly held assumptions, a fascinating new view of the living world is opened to us, with implications for our understanding of physiology, the environment, and the remarkable structures animals build.


  • With his audacious new book, J. Scott Turner shoots an impressive salvo across the bows of narrow thinking. He...[seeks] to dispense with...the distinction between phenotype and environment...As he painstakingly builds his argument, one progresses from head-scratching to head-nodding. To work this metamorphosis, Turner brings to bear scientific incisiveness, humor, and a prose style that makes scientific minutiae fun to read...[The Extended Organism] stands apart as a remarkably synthetic piece of scholarship.

    —Kurt Schwenk, New York Times Book Review


  • J. Scott Turner is Associate Professor at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse.

Book Details

  • 256 pages
  • 7-3/4 x 8-15/16 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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