Why Animals Talk: The New Science of Animal Communication (Hardcover)

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"Animal communication doesn’t need to resemble human language to be full of meaning and nuance. Arik Kershenbaum delivers an expert overview of the astonishing discoveries made in the last few decades" —Frans de Waal

From leading zoologist Arik Kershenbaum, a delightful and groundbreaking exploration of animal communication and its true meaning


Animal communication has forever seemed intelligible. We are surrounded by animals and the cacophony of sounds that they make—from the chirping of songbirds to the growls of lions on the savanna—but we have yet to fully understand why animals communicate the way they do. What are they saying? This is only part of the mystery. To go deeper, we must also ask, what is motivating them?

Why Animals Talk is an exhilarating journey through the untamed world of animal communication. Following his international bestseller, The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy, acclaimed zoologist Arik Kershenbaum draws on extensive original research to reveal how many of the animal kingdom’s most seemingly confusing or untranslatable signals are in fact logical and consistent—and not that different from our own. His fascinating deep dive into this timeless subject overturns decades of conventional wisdom, inviting readers to experience for the first time communication through the minds of animals themselves.

From the majestic howls of wolves and the enchanting chatter of parrots to the melodic clicks of dolphins and the spirited grunts of chimpanzees, these often strange expressions are far from mere noise. In fact, they hold secrets that we are just beginning to decipher. It’s one of the oldest mysteries that has haunted Homo sapiens for hundreds of thousands of years: Are animals talking just like us, or are we the only animals on the planet to have our own language?

About the Author


Dr. Arik Kershenbaum is a zoologist, college lecturer and fellow at Girton College, University of Cambridge. He has done extensive fieldwork on animal communication: following wolves around Yellowstone National Park and the forests of central Wisconsin to uncover the meaning of their different kinds of howls, as well as decoding the whistles of dolphins among the coral reefs of the Red Sea, the songs of gibbons in the jungles of Vietnam and the songs of hyraxes in the mountains of the Galilee. He holds a PhD from the University of Haifa and a higher doctorate from the University of Cambridge.

Praise For…


“In this rewarding study, Cambridge University zoologist Kershenbaum (The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy) examines the meaning behind howls, screeches, and other calls of the wild . . . The captivating science highlights the complexity of animal calls . . . Animal lovers will want to give this a spin.” Publishers Weekly

“Kershenbaum, a zoologist at Cambridge and the author of The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy, has been studying animal communication for decades, and he readily admits that he and his colleagues have only scratched the surface of the subject. In his latest book, the author brings us up to date on the current research . . . For decades, there was an assumption that only human communication was 'real' language, but the new approach explores communication within the broader social and environmental context of animal communities . . . The author avoids the trap of thinking that animal communication is somehow inferior to human communication simply because it is different. Studying it lets us move away from the rigid notion of human exceptionalism and toward a better understanding of the world . . . A dive into animal communication that is fascinating in its own right, but also revealing about humanity.” —​Kirkus​

“Zoologist Kershenbaum, author of the delightful The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy, turns his eye to all of the sounds that animals make . . . Kershenbaum here presents a terrific overview of why and how non-human animals communicate . . . This informal look at the science behind what animals are saying to each other lets the reader experience other species' minds and dig into the science and study of communication . . . Charismatic animals chatting to each other—what's not to like?” —Booklist

“Animal communication doesn’t need to resemble human language to be full of meaning and nuance. Arik Kershenbaum delivers an expert overview of the astonishing discoveries made in the last few decades.” —Frans de Waal, author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

“Arik Kershenbaum takes you into a world of changes in tone and sound that enable animals to communicate emotion, their individual identity, and needs. The world of sound is highly complex.” —Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make Us Human and Visual Thinking

“Talking isn’t just a human thing, and many animals communicate in sophisticated ways with sounds and melodies. In Why Animals Talk, Zoologist and science writer Arik Kershenbaum immerses us in the soundscapes of animal life. In the howls of wolves and clicks of dolphins, Kershenbaum helps us perceive how other animals sense their worlds, and in doing so, explores the evolutionary roots of our own advanced language skills. It is fitting that a book about communication is so conversational and engaging, and it will give you a new perspective on the richness of nature.” —Steve Brusatte, author of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

“Arik Kershenbaum, who already has a dedicated following thanks to his The Zoologist’s Guide to The Galaxy, takes us on another imaginative journey into the lives of animals. Kershenbaum has a rare talent for scientific storytelling. In Why Animals Talk, he adeptly translates a rigorous body of scientific material and some exceptionally thorny concepts into a narrative that is inviting and accessible to a broad range of readers. Wolf howls, dolphin whistles, parrot squawks, and the strangely captivating song of the hyrax—these come to life through Kershenbaum’s words and through his ingenious use of line-drawn spectrograms, which allow the reader to 'hear' animals in a new way. Instead of trying to judge animal communication by human standards, Kershenbaum guides us to toward a more productive and interesting approach: He asks us to step outside ourselves, outside our own perceptual and linguistic world, to apprehend animals on their own terms, understanding how their unique forms of communication have helped them solve unique evolutionary challenges. Read this book and, I promise, you’ll never listen to animals in the same way again.” —Jessica Pierce, author of Who’s a Good Dog?
 
“Quirky, insightful . . . based on a deep understanding of recent research.” —Tim Clutton-Brock, author of Meerkat Manor
 
“A new look at a fascinating subject.” —Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593654934
ISBN-10: 0593654935
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: August 6th, 2024
Pages: 288
Language: English