cover image The Creative Lives of Animals

The Creative Lives of Animals

Carol Gigliotti. New York Univ, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-1-479815-44-9

Artist and scholar Gigliotti (Leonardo’s Choice) provides an illuminating account of creativity in the wild. Defining creativity as “a dynamic process in which novel and meaningful behaviors are generated by individuals with the possibility of affecting others at cultural, species, and evolutionary levels,” Gigliotti posits that while “most of us view animals through a very narrow lens” and see them as “mostly peripheral to our lives,” they exhibit extensively creative behaviors. One such activity, she writes, is play, which scientists have observed in octopuses, rays, turtles, and paper wasps. Humpback whale researchers, for example, believe that the phenomenon of bubbling, in which whales create nets of bubbles to trap schools of fish, may be learned from playing rather than from observed behavior. Each case study is surprising: in one, a chicken displays empathy for a woman who is unable to save another chicken from a fatal injury, while elsewhere crocodiles surf waves and cuttlefish use creative deceptions for reproductive advantages. By the end, Gigliotti makes a solid case that humans have a lot to learn about the creatures that they share the planet with, and that much of what scientists previously thought was uniquely human isn’t. Fans of Jane Goodall and Frans de Waal will be pleased. (Nov.)