There are more than thirty thousand species of fish–more than all mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians combined. But for all their breathtaking diversity and beauty, we rarely consider how fish think, feel, and behave.
In What a Fish Knows, the ethologist Jonathan Balcombe takes us under the sea and to the other side of the aquarium glass to reveal what fishes can do, how they do it, and why. Introducing the latest revelations in animal behavior and biology, Balcombe upends our assumptions about fish, exposing them not as unfeeling, dead-eyed creatures but as sentient, aware, social–even Machiavellian. They conduct elaborate courtship rituals and develop lifelong bonds with shoal-mates. They also plan, hunt cooperatively, use tools, punish wrongdoers, curry favor, and deceive one another. Fish possess sophisticated senses that rival our own. The reef-dwelling damselfish identifies its brethren by face patterns visible only in ultraviolet light, and some species communicate among themselves in murky waters using electric signals. Highlighting these breakthrough discoveries and others from his own encounters with fish, Balcombe inspires a more enlightened appraisal of marine life.
An illuminating journey into the world of underwater science, What a Fish Knows will forever change your view of our aquatic cousins–your pet goldfish included.
Jonathan Balcombe is the director of animal sentience at the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy and the author of four books, including Second Nature and Pleasurable Kingdom. He has appeared the Diane Rehm Show, the BBC, and the National Geographic channel, and in several documentaries Jonathan is also a contributor of features and opinions to The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Nature, and other publications. Today, Jonathan shares some insights from his newly released book, What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of our Underwater Cousins.