Animal Wise

Animal Wise

Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures by Virginia Morell

QL 785 .M655 2013

“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, elephants, and wolves to sharp-shooting archerfish and pods of dolphins that rumble like rival street gangs. With thirty years of experience covering the sciences, Morell uses her formidable gifts as a storyteller 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, and self-awareness – traits that many in the twentieth 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 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.”
– publisher description

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What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs

What the Dog Knows

What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs by Cat Warren

SF 428.73 .W37 2013

“Cat Warren is a university professor and former journalist with an admittedly odd hobby: She and her German shepherd have spent the last seven years searching for the dead. Solo is a cadaver dog. What started as a way to harness Solo’s unruly energy and enthusiasm soon became a calling that introduced Warren to the hidden and fascinating universe of working dogs, their handlers, and their trainers.

Solo has one fine nose and knows how to use it, but he’s only one of many thousands of working dogs all over the United States and beyond. In What the Dog Knows, Warren uses her ongoing work with Solo as a way to explore a captivating field that includes cadaver dogs, drug- and bomb-detecting K9s, tracking and apprehension dogs – even dogs who can locate unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers and help find drowning victims more than two hundred feet below the surface of a lake. Working dogs’ abilities may seem magical or mysterious, but Warren shows the multifaceted science, the rigorous training, and the skilled handling that underlie the amazing abilities of dogs who work with their noses.

Warren interviews cognitive psychologists, historians, medical examiners, epidemiologists, and forensic anthropologists, as well as the breeders, trainers, and handlers who work with and rely on these remarkable and adaptable animals daily. Along the way, she discovers story after story that proves the impressive capabilities – as well as the very real limits – of working dogs and their human partners. Clear-eyed and unsentimental, Warren explains why our partnership with dogs is woven into the fabric of society and why we keep finding new uses for their wonderful noses.” – publisher description

Octopus!

Octopus!

Octopus!: The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea by Katherine Harmon Courage

QL 430.3 .O2 C68 2013

No one understand the octopus. With eight arms, three hearts, camouflaging skin, and a disarmingly sentient look behind its highly evolved eyes, how could it appear anything but utterly alien?

Octopuses have been captivating humans for as long as we have been catching them. Many cultures have octopus-centric creation myths, art, and, of course, cuisine. For all of our ancient fascination and millions of dollars’ worth of modern research, however, we still have not been able to get a firm grasp on these enigmatic creatures.

Now, Katherine Harmon Courage, a veteran journalist and contributing editor for Scientific American, dives into the mystifying underwater world of the octopus. She reports from around the globe of her adventures in Spain, Greece, and even Brooklyn, inviting us to experience the scientific discoveries and deep cultural ties that connect us to the octopus. You’ll discover:

  • The oldest known fossilized octopus is estimated to have lived 296 million years ago – even before the first dinosaurs emerged.
  • Government agencies are funding research labs around the world to re-create the octopus’s naturally occurring camouflage techniques.
  • About two thirds of an octopus’s brain capacity is spread throughout its eight arms, meaning each one literally has a mind of its own.
  • Octopuses have aced numerous intelligence tests, including opening childproof bottles, solving mazes, and even recognizing individual people.
  • The octopus can change colors and textures within milliseconds to vanish against its background – yet we have no evidence that it can see color.

Courage deftly interweaves personal narrative with interviews with leading octopus experts. The result is an entertaining yet scientifically grounded exploration of the octopus and its infinitely complex world.”
– publisher description

Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences Between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom

Odd Couples

Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences Between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom
by Daphne J. Fairbairn

QP 81.5 .F35 2013

“While we joke that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, our gender differences can’t compare to those of other animals. For instance, the male garden spider spontaneously dies after mating with a female more than fifty times his size. Female cichlids must guard their eggs and larvae – even from the hungry appetites of their own partners. And male blanket octopuses employ a copulatory arm longer than their own bodies to mate with females that outweigh them by four orders of magnitude. Why do these gender gulfs exist? Introducing readers to important discoveries in animal behavior and evolution, Odd Couples explores some of the most extraordinary sexual differences in the animal world. From the fields of Spain to the deep oceans, evolutionary biologist Daphne Fairbairn uncovers the unique and bizarre characteristics – in size, behavior, ecology, and life history – that exist in these remarkable species and the special strategies they use to maximize reproductive success.

Fairbairn describes how male great bustards aggressively compete to display their gorgeous plumage and large physique to watching, choosey females. She investigates why female elephant seals voluntarily live in harems where they are harassed constantly by eager males. And she reveals why dwarf male giant seadevils parasitically fuse to their giant female partners for life. Fairbairn also considers humans and explains that although we are keenly aware of our own sexual differences, they are unexceptional within the vast animal world.

Looking at some of the most amazing creatures on the planet, Odd Couples sheds astonishing light on what it means to be male or female in the animal kingdom.” – publisher description

Walking Sideways: The Remarkable World of Crabs

Walking SidewaysWalking Sideways: The Remarkable World of Crabs by Judith S. Weis

QL 444 .M33 W394 2012

“The world’s nearly 7,000 species of crabs are immediately recognizable by their claws, sideways movement, stalked eyes, and thick outer shells. These common crustaceans are found internationally, thriving in various habitats from the edge of the sea to the depths of the ocean, in fresh water and on land. Despite having the same basic body type as other decapod crustaceans – true crabs have heavy exoskeletons and ten limbs with front pincer claws – crabs come in an enormous variety of shapes and sizes, from the near microscopic to the giant Japanese spider crab.

In Walking Sideways, Judith S. Weis provides an engaging and informative tour of the remarkable world of crabs, highlighting their unique biology and natural history. She introduces us to recently discovered crabs such as the Yeti crab found in deep sea vents, explains what scientists are learning about blue and hermit crabs commonly found at the shore, and gives us insight into the lifecycles of the king and Dungeness crabs typically seen only on dinner plates. Among the topics Weis covers are the evolution and classification of crabs, their habitats, unique adaptations to water and land, reproduction and development, behavior, ecology, and threats, including up-to-date research.

Crabs are of special interest to biologists for their communication behaviors, sexual dimorphism, and use of chemical stimuli and touch receptors, and Weis explains the importance of new scientific discoveries. In addition to the traditional ten-legged crabs, the book also treats those that appear to be eight-legged, including hermit crabs, king crabs, and mole (or sand) crabs. Vignettes address topics of special interest, such as the relationship of lobsters to crabs and medical uses of compounds derived from horseshoe crabs (which aren’t really crabs).

While Weis emphasizes conservation and the threats that crabs face, she also addresses the use of crabs as food (detailing how crabs are caught and cooked) and their commercial value from fisheries and aquaculture. She highlights other interactions between crabs and people, including keeping hermit crabs as pets or studying marine species in the laboratory and field. Reminding us of characters such as The Little Mermaid‘s Sebastian and Sherman Lagoon‘s Hawthorne, she also surveys the role of crabs in literature (for both children and adults), film, and television, as well as in mythology and astrology. With illustrations that offer delightful visual evidence of crab diversity and their unique behaviors, Walking Sideways will appeal to anyone who has encountered these fascinating animals on the beach, at an aquarium, or in the kitchen.” – publisher description

The Song of the Ape

The Song of the Ape: Understanding the Languages of Chimpanzees by Andrew R. Halloran

QL 737 .P96 H358 2012

“While working as a zookeeper with a group of semi-wild chimpanzees living on an island, primatologist Andrew Halloran witnessed an event that led to his fascination about how chimpanzees communicate complex information and ideas to one another. The group he was working with was in the middle of a yearlong power battle in which the older chimpanzees were being ousted in favor of a younger group. One day Andrew carelessly forgot to secure his rowboat at the mainland and looked up to see it floating over to the chimp island. In an orchestrated fashion, five ousted members of the chimp group quietly came from different parts of the island and boarded the boat. Without confusion, they sat in two perfect rows of two, with Higgy, the deposed alpha male, at the back, propelling and steering the boat to shore. The incident occurred without screams or disorder and appeared to have been preplanned and communicated. Since this event, Andrew has extensively studied primate communication and, in particular, how this group of chimpanzees naturally communicated. What he found is that chimpanzees use a set of vocalizations every bit as complex as human language.

The Song of the Ape traces the individual histories of each of the five chimpanzees on the boat, some of whom came to the zoo after being wild-caught chimps raised as pets, circus performers, and lab chimps, and examines how these histories led to the common lexicon of the group.

Interspersed with these histories, the book details the pursuit of scientists attempting (and failing) to train apes to use human grammar and language, using the well-known and controversial examples of Koko the gorilla, Kanzi the bonobo, and Nim Chimpsky the chimpanzee, all of whom supposedly were able to communicate with their human caretakers using sign language.

Ultimately, the book shows that while laboratories try in vain to teach human grammar to a chimpanzee, there is a living lexicon being passed down through generations of each chimpanzee group in the wild. Halloran demonstrates what that lexicon looks like with twenty-five phrases he recorded, isolated, and interpreted while working with the chimps, and concludes that what is occurring in nature is far more fascinating and miraculous than anything that can be created in a laboratory.

The Song of the Ape is a lively, engaging, and personal account, with many moments of humor as well as the occasional heartbreak, and it will appeal to anyone who wants to listen in as our closest relatives converse.”
– publisher description

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals by Hal Herzog

QL 85 .H47 2010

“Does living with a pet really make people happier and healthier?  What can we learn from biomedical research with mice?  Who enjoyed a better quality of life – the chicken on a dinner plate or the rooster who died in a Saturday-night cockfight?  Why is it wrong to eat the family dog?  Drawing on more than two decades of research in the emerging field of anthrozoology, the science of human-animal relations, Hal Herzog offers surprising answers to these and other questions related to the moral conundrums we face day in and day out regarding the creatures with whom we share our world.

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat is a highly entertaining and illuminating journey through the full spectrum of human-animal relations, based on Dr. Herzog’s groundbreaking research on animal rights activists, cockfighters, professional dog-show handlers, veterinary students, and biomedical researchers.  Blending anthropology, behavioral economics, evolutionary psychology, and philosophy, Herzog crafts a seamless narrative enriched with real-life anecdotes, scientific research, and his own sense of moral ambivalence.

Alternately poignant, challenging, and laugh-out-loud funny, this enlightening and provocative book will forever change the way we look at our relationships with other creatures and, ultimately, how we see ourselves.” – publisher description