The Book of Humans by Adam Rutherford review – a pithy homage to our species

A crisp appraisal of human nature is a welcome addition to an often laboured genre

In 2017, scientists in Australia observed some striking avian behaviour. A handful of kites and falcons in the outback were seen picking up burning sticks from bush fires. The birds would then carry these smoking embers in their beaks to areas of dry grass and drop them. New fires were set off, triggering frenzied evacuations by small animals – which were promptly snatched from above by the waiting raptors.

Such actions are extraordinary, says Adam Rutherford, a science writer and broadcaster. “It is, as far as I am aware, the only documented account of deliberate fire-starting by an animal other than a human. These birds are using fire as a tool.”

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