Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures
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Noted science writer Virginia Morell explores the frontiers of research on animal cognition and emotion, offering a surprising and moving exploration into the hearts and minds of wild and domesticated animals.
Did you know that ants teach, earthworms make decisions, rats love to be tickled, and chimps grieve? Did you know that some dogs have thousand-word vocabularies and that birds practice songs in their sleep? That crows improvise tools, blue jays plan ahead, and moths remember living as caterpillars?
Animal Wise takes us on a dazzling odyssey into the inner world of animals, from ants to elephants to wolves, and from sharp-shooting archerfish to pods of dolphins that rumble like rival street gangs. With 30 years of experience covering the sciences, Morell uses her formidable gifts as a story-teller to transport us to field sites and laboratories around the world, introducing us to pioneering animal-cognition researchers and their surprisingly intelligent and sensitive subjects. She explores how this rapidly evolving, controversial field has only recently overturned old notions about why animals behave as they do. She probes the moral and ethical dilemmas of recognizing that even "lesser animals" have cognitive abilities such as memory, feelings, personality, and self-awareness - traits that many in the 20th century felt were unique to human beings.
By standing behaviorism on its head, Morell brings the world of nature brilliantly alive in a nuanced, deeply felt appreciation of the human-animal bond, and she shares her admiration for the men and women who have simultaneously chipped away at what we think makes us distinctive while offering a glimpse of where our own abilities come from.
monogamous. They nest on Midway Atoll and don’t breed until they are eight or nine years old. If they lose their mate, they “go through a year or two of a mourning period,” says John Klavitter, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist at Midway. “After that, they will do a courtship dance to try to find another mate.” * In 1992, the leading neuroscience journal Brain, Behavior and Evolution officially announced the end of the use of the scale of nature in articles discussing the evolution of
the tank, much as we do when we try to soothe a spot that hurts by rubbing it. No one had ever reported these behaviors in fish before. They weren’t just simple, reflexive behaviors either. Tellingly, for three hours afterward, the injected fish didn’t touch a morsel of food, although fish that had been injected with saline—and so felt the prick of the needle—ate with as much gusto as did a group of untreated fish. “I think they were responding to something painful,” Braithwaite said. “But we
they look forward to the former. Since both sex and play are based on trust and require cooperation, it may be that the most play-experienced rats are also the best at sex. Panksepp likes to say that his joyful rats may not have a “sense of humor, but they sure do have a sense of fun”—a trait far removed from any machine. “That was a tall tale, a twentieth-century myth,” Panksepp said about the animal-as-machine model. While there are scientists, particularly in his field, he added, who still
their computer codes: ALI, AME, AGA. When she identified a second family, she called it the BB family, and so on. Moss and her team have identified sixty-one elephant families and have run through the alphabet twice to give each a different code. And because families sometimes split apart into new, separate groups, she has also added numbers. That was the case with the OAs and the OA2s, Njiraini explained. A few years ago, they were one family—the OA family, led by the matriarch, Orlanda—until
agitated, then the others will get even more upset, and the whole thing can ratchet out of control.” A strange dominant matriarch, like Abby‑45, is a threat. She could be encroaching with her family, setting off a competition between the two groups. Cynthia Moss has witnessed frightening encounters between nonallied families. When the EBs and WBs gathered in the same area to feed, one of Moss’s favorite females, Echo, marched up to the WBs’ new baby, scooped it up with her tusks, and pitched it