Virginia Morell

Animal Wise

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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 practise songs in their sleep? That crows improvise tools, blue jays plan ahead and moths remember living as caterpillars?

Animal Wise takes us on a captivating journey into the inner world of animals, from sharp-shooting archerfish to pods of dolphins that rumble like rival street gangs. A formidable storyteller, Virginia Morell transports us to field sites and laboratories around the world, introducing us to pioneering animal-cognition researchers and their surprisingly intelligent and sensitive subjects. She probes the moral and ethical dilemmas of recognising that even “lesser animals” have cognitive abilities such as memory, feelings, personality and self-awareness—traits that many in the twentieth century felt were unique to human beings. Animal Wise is in the same league as the works of Jane Goodall, Cynthia Moss and Jeffrey Masson.

Shortlisted, 2013 LA Times Book Prize for Science & Technology

‘After you read this book, you will be convinced that many different animal species have true thoughts and emotions. You will take a journey to the centre of the animal mind.’ —Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human

‘Morell passionately and consistently proves her point in this frequently fascinating study of animal behavior … [She] is a gifted writer with a deep knowledge base that never talks down to the reader or the academic community—no small feat.’ —Publishers Weekly

‘[A] delightful exploration of how animals think … Morell makes a fascinating, convincing case that even primitive animals give some thought to their actions.’ —Kirkus Reviews

‘By the end of this compelling book, you wonder why humans have taken so long to accept that our fellow animals think and feel like us.’ —Sydney Morning Herald

‘Each chapter takes readers on an adventure alongside researchers as they probe the minds of such disparate creatures as ants, trout, dolphins, elephants and chimpanzees.’ —Scientific American

‘Touching and provocative … well-told and often heart-wrenching.’ –Washington Post

‘A fascinating, accessible look at animal cognition.’ –People

‘This enthralling book might change the way we perceive other species who share the planet with us … A compelling read.’ —Bark

‘This charming book about animal intelligence … has a nice arc to its structure—working from generally more basic (although still remarkable) cognitive abilities of creatures like adventurous ants to the complex thinking of chimps—and it is threaded through with philosophical questions that are as thought-provoking as the creatures and experiments she chronicles.’ —Smithsonian

‘For most of the 20th Century, animals weren’t allowed to have emotions … But Virginia Morell’s new book, Animal Wise, tells a new story. After six years of reporting in 11 different countries, the longtime science journalist is pretty certain: Animals feel. And strongly, as it turns out.’ —Wired

‘Each chapter takes readers on an adventure alongside researchers as they probe the minds of such disparate creatures as ants, trout, dolphins, elephants and chimpanzees.’ —Scientific American

‘Virginia Morell sheds light on the many surprises of cognitive awareness of animals.’ —San Francisco Chronicle

Virginia Morell is an acclaimed science journalist and author. She is a prolific contributor to National Geographic, Discover and Science, among other publications. She is also the author of Ancestral Passions, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; Blue Nile; and coauthor with Richard Leakey of Wildlife Wars.
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400 printed pages
Original publication


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