by Virginia Morell
Did you know that dolphins are self-aware, rats love to be tickled, chimps grieve, killer whales have cultures and octopuses have personalities? Did you know that dogs have extensive vocabularies and birds practice songs in their sleep?
Animal Wise takes us on a dazzling exploration into the minds and emotions of animals, through the unusual and committed researchers who study them. Looking at insects, parrots, crows, blue jays, fish, rats, elephants, dolphins, chimpanzees, wolves and dogs, Morell examines the amazing inroads made in the field of animal cognition; the unique personalities of the pioneering researchers involved; the moral and ethical issues raised; and the dilemmas involving how we can accurately uncover animals’ cognitive abilities like memory, feelings, personality and self-awareness – traits that many in the 20th century felt were unique only to humans.
By standing behaviourism on its head, Morell brings the world of nature brilliantly alive in a nuanced, deeply-felt appreciation of the human–animal bond.
Release date: February 26, 2013 | ISBN-10: 9780307461445 | ISBN-13: 978-0307461445
Each chapter focuses on an animal in a particular observational or experimental setting. Virginia Morell introduces us to the scientist and the animals, explaining the studies, the results and some of the trials and triumphs along the way to building an understanding of what the scientists find. The animal and settings we may already have a prejudice about; captive dolphins, elephant memories, chimpanzees and language, dogs and humans, are very carefully presented to ensure that the most compelling results are well presented. The more novel animals, ants and fish for example, are also carefully presented, their novelty makes for an easier presentation. For example I had no preconceived ideas regarding the ability of ants to teach – with no mental hurdle of my to overcome – that chapter was very illuminating. The examples and researchers chosen for these chapters succinctly illustrate what we have learnt about the emotions and intelligence of these animals. [From Kevin Orrman-Rossiter‘s review in Australian Science]