UPDATE: the publisher has agreed to replace the erroneous passage with the following sentence: “Fish authority Jonathan Balcombe views the morality of fish-eating as a serious matter, and he abstains from eating animals, fish included.” Jonathan’s book “What a Fish Knows” is now cited in Nussbaum’s book and included in […]
A study recently published in a prestigious journal reports a surprise finding: that jumping spiders twitch during sleep in a way that resembles what cats, dogs and other mammals do during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The German researchers noticed eye movements happening at the same time as leg jerks, […]
From New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Balcombe comes this charming and affecting tale of young Jake, who on his first fishing trip with his grandfather, makes a crucial discovery when he meets Ava, an archerfish, caught on his line. This tender tale will evoke empathy in young readers. […]
The New York Times Book Review | Hosted by Pamela Paul | July 9, 2021
The Lives of Flies
Jonathan Balcombe talks about “Super Fly” and Marjorie Ingall discusses Holocaust literature for children
The subtitle of Jonathan Balcombe’s new book, “Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World’s Most Successful Insects” leads to the first question on this week’s podcast. Why “successful”?
“Their diversity, for one,” Balcombe says. “There’s over 160,000 described species — and it’s important to add that qualifier, ‘described,’ because it’s estimated there may be about five times that many that are undescribed. Insects make up 80 percent of all animal species on the planet, so that says something right there about how incredibly successful they are, and flies are arguably the most species-rich subset of insects. It’s estimated there’s about 20 million flies on earth at any moment for every human who’s on the earth. And they occupy all seven continents.”
Marjorie Ingall visits the podcast this week to discuss her essay about why she finds it troubling that children’s literature focuses so relentlessly on the Holocaust.
To listen to the interview online at The New York Times ~ please click here.
Winner Of The National Outdoor Book Award | Natural History Literature
From an expert in animal consciousness, a book that will turn the fly on the wall into the elephant in the room.
For most of us, the only thing we know about flies is that they’re annoying, and our usual reaction is to try to kill them. In Super Fly, the myth-busting biologist Jonathan Balcombe shows the order Diptera in all of its diversity, illustrating the essential role that flies play in every ecosystem in the world as pollinators, waste-disposers, predators, and food source; and how flies continue to reshape our understanding of evolution. Along the way, he reintroduces us to familiar foes like the fruit fly and mosquito, and gives us the chance to meet their lesser-known cousins like the Petroleum Fly (the only animal in the world that breeds in crude oil) and the Chocolate Midge (the sole pollinator of the Cacao tree). No matter your outlook on our tiny buzzing neighbors, Super Fly will change the way you look at flies forever.
To Read More – Please Click Here
In our fast-paced, human-centered lives, we are often oblivious to the remarkable capacities of so many animal species, like those of our underwater cousins: fish. Article: The Globe And Mail, February 09, 2019 Author: Jonathan Balcombe Website: The Globe And Mail Extract: I have spent years exploring the inner lives […]
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The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins:
About The Book:
Do fishes think? Do they really have three-second memories? And can they recognize the humans who peer back at them from above the surface of the water?
In What a Fish Knows, the myth-busting ethologist Jonathan Balcombe addresses these questions and more, taking us under the sea, through streams and estuaries, and to the other side of the aquarium glass to reveal the surprising capabilities of fishes.
Although there are more than thirty thousand species of fish―more than all mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians combined―we rarely consider how individual fishes think, feel, and behave.
This morning, still recovering from jetlag, I went for a bike ride as the sun rose on the suburbs north of Washington, DC.
As I cycled through one of the lovely state parks that grace my neighborhood, I spooked a small herd of deer enjoying some browse at the border of a woodland and field.
At first I thought they were accompanied by a domestic dog, until I realized I had seen a piebald white-tailed deer.
First Published: May 15th, 2016 – The New York Times
In March, two marine biologists published a study of giant manta rays responding to their reflections in a large mirror installed in their aquarium in the Bahamas. The two captive rays circled in front of the mirror, blew bubbles and performed unusual body movements as if checking their reflection. They made no obvious attempt to interact socially with their reflections, suggesting that they did not mistake what they saw as other rays.
The scientists concluded that the mantas seemed to be recognizing their reflections as themselves.
Mirror self-recognition is a big deal. It indicates self-awareness, a mental attribute previously known only among creatures of noted intelligence like great apes, dolphins, elephants and magpies. We don’t usually think of fishes as smart, let alone self-aware.
A recent article by British scientist and author Matt Ridley denies rats the capacity for empathy primarily on the flimsy basis that studies on ants show them helping a distressed fellow ant. As it seems “absurd” to attribute empathic suffering to a social insect, we should not stoop to crediting such feelings to rats either, according to Ridley, and the authors of a recent paper in Biology Letters.
For the record, I have great respect for ants, and I won’t jump to conclusions about their capacities. But why on earth would we use ants as a yardstick for the emotional capacities of rats—a species with a demonstrated capacity for laughter, pessimism, emotional fever, and metacognition (awareness of one’s own knowledge)?
Book Review Of What A Fish Knows:
Paul Taunton’s list of must-read books for June in The National Post includes, “What A Fish Knows”:
It’s a Sunday morning and I’m sitting on my deck in the outer suburbs of Washington, D.C., which abuts a magnificent woodland plot.
In the winter one can just see through the naked trees to a field 500 feet beyond. But in summer this space is transformed into a lush green world. Regardless of the season it throngs with life, but it seems that summer days are the busiest. I have the added good fortune of having neighbors who ply the wildlife with a smorgasbord of bird and mammal feeders, so it sometimes looks like rush-hour at Grand Central Station.
This morning I’ve been out here for an hour and as usual there are plenty of little stories unraveling.
This morning as I went to fetch the paper from the front porch of my town-home in suburban Maryland, a neighbor took her dog across the parking area to a central green-space for a morning bathroom break.
I’ve seen this mid-sized, thickly furred canine on her morning ablutions before.
Usually it’s the man of the house who is on the other end of the retractable leash, but in either case, there’s a sense of rush-hour haste to the operation. These folks clearly have jobs to get to and the AM dog shift is all business—I only hope the evening walk is less perfunctory.
This morning I went grocery shopping at my local Whole Foods market. Whole Foods is the largest natural foods supermarket chain in the world. I consider people who shop here to be relatively enlightened.
I saw at least six people wearing coats with real fur trim collars.
Fur Fact: the fur industry has staged something of a come-back since it reached its low point in the mid-nineties.
Yesterday as I stepped from the train on my way to a Bach concert, I noticed a house sparrow lying prostrate on the platform next to a rain shelter.
No doubt she had flown into the shelter’s window. Hoping she was just stunned, I picked her up. Alas, she was quite dead.
I stroked the soft feathers on her neck and head, noted the robustness of her pink beak, and admired the perfect symmetry of her tail feathers before depositing her beneath some ground ivy, where ants, flies and other members of nature’s recycling crew might perform their services undisturbed.
House sparrows are commonplace in the United States, and Washington, D.C. is no exception. They lurk in my neighborhood, chirping from eaves, taking shelter beneath cars, and holding noisy palavers inside cedar trees.