What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins

Jonathan Balcombe. FSG/Scientific American, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-28821-1
In this entertaining study, ethologist Balcombe (The Exultant Ark) points out that fish are some 60% of all vertebrates on earth, yet they receive little regard outside of being a source of food or object of sport. With the vivacious energy of a cracking good storyteller, Balcombe draws deeply from scientific studies and his own experience with fish to introduce readers to them as sentient creatures that live full lives governed by cognition and perception. He illustrates a piscine capacity for joy and pleasure in the case of a Midas cichlid that returns again and again to a trusted human to be stroked and sometimes held out of the water. Balcombe cites instances of alteration in one fish’s behavior when a traumatic event occurs to another fish in the same tank, concluding that the two are emotionally attuned to each other. Fish, he observes, also actively play with other creatures, and he offers examples that illustrate awareness and intention coupled with a sense of amusement. Balcombe makes a convincing case that fish possess minds and memories, are capable of planning and organizing, and cooperate with one another in webs of social relationships. Agent: Stacey Glick, Dystel & Goderich. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2016
Release date: 06/07/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-374-71433-8
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-374-53709-8
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