What A Fish Knows

What A Fish Knows

The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins

Book - 2016
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A New York Times Bestseller

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. Balcombe upends our assumptions about fishes, portraying them not asunfeeling, dead-eyed feeding machines but as sentient, aware, social, and even Machiavellian--in other words, much like us.
What a Fish Knows draws on the latest science to present a fresh look at these remarkable creatures in all their breathtaking diversity and beauty. Fishes conduct elaborate courtship rituals and develop lifelong bonds with shoalmates. They also plan, hunt cooperatively, use tools, curry favor, deceive one another, and punish wrongdoers. We may imagine that fishes lead simple, fleeting lives--a mode of existence that boils down to a place on the food chain, rote spawning, and lots of aimless swimming. But, as Balcombe demonstrates, the truth is far richer and more complex, worthy of the grandest social novel.
Highlighting breakthrough discoveries from fish enthusiasts and scientists around the world and pondering his own encounters with fishes, Balcombe examines the fascinating means by which fishes gain knowledge of the places they inhabit, from shallow tide pools to the deepest reaches of the ocean.
Teeming with insights and exciting discoveries, What a Fish Knows offers a thoughtful appraisal of our relationships with fishes and inspires us to take a more enlightened view of the planet's increasingly imperiled marine life. What a Fish Knows will forever change how we see our aquatic cousins--the pet goldfish included.

Publisher: New York : Scientific American/Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2016.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780374288211
Characteristics: viii, 288 pages : color illustrations ; 22 cm


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Feb 19, 2019

Fish can see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and feel! They communicate using electricity, enjoy social lives, have habits, and can recognize the person who feeds them. Who knew? And we thought Nemo was just fiction.

Engagingly written and full of uncommon fish facts, ethologist Balcombe makes science fun.

A fascinating and eye-opening collection of scientific studies on the intelligence of fish. Once you read it, you will not look at a fish tank—or your meal—the same way again.

Other nonfiction book reviews on Instagram @Ivy Digest--https://www.instagram.com/ivydigest/

SFPL_danielay May 16, 2017

At a time when fish are considered to not even be able to feel pain, Balcombe shows them to be smart creatures exquisitely adapted to their watery habitat. The book is full of amazing studies done on fish which show them to be fooled by some of the same optical illusions as humans, surpass primates on some cognitive thinking tests and to even communicate across species for the purpose of collaborative hunting. Engagingly written and mostly free of scientific jargon, this book is for everybody who wants to know more about these creatures we mostly encounter behind glass or dead on our dinner plates.

PimaLib_NormS Mar 22, 2017

Who knows what a fish knows? Maybe Jonathan Balcombe does. He has authored a new book, “What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins”. Citing numerous scientific studies from around the world, Balcombe writes that fish are sentient beings, capable of much more than humans had previously believed. We used to think that fish felt no pain, had no feelings, no ability to think and learn, and were purely instinctive in their activities. So, it was okay to lure them into biting a barbed hook and yank them out of the water. They don’t feel anything, right? Why did we think that? Was it because fish have a blank, unblinking look that reveals absolutely nothing? That they, to us, are silent? That they live and breathe underwater? Fish are so unlike us, it is difficult to believe there can be much of anything in common with them. The science, as written by Jonathan Balcombe, reveals that fish have personalities and emotions; they can and do learn to cooperate for the common good, and it has been proven that some fish know how to use tools. Fish and humans took different evolutionary paths, and there will always be a prey/predator relationship between us, but there are areas of commonality that are worth exploring. “What a Fish Knows” does just that.

The book explained how fish act in the world. they explained fish can feel fear, anger and happiness. Did you know fish can also be fooled by optical illusions? I was a little surprised and aghast at what i read. The next Tona sandwich i had i realized that fish probably had a higher I.Q> than i did. But, over all, it was interesting to learn the intellect of fish.

-Emerson, age 13

Aug 22, 2016

Very interesting read. It is though a great example of a common flaw of some, or perhaps many scientists these days. The author believes things about fish (based on his personal feelings and emotion) and then arranges the science and much hear say evidence neatly to support his pre conceived notions. He would have you believe, as he apparently does, that your pet guppy is on a intellectual plane shared by higher animals.. including apes and humans. As I said, the book is an interesting and well written work but you may find some of the conclusions to be a bit of a stretch. Worth the read...and you can decide for yourself :)

Aug 10, 2016

Very well written, perhaps more than you wanted to know abut fish in parts. Definitely will increase your compassion for these creatures.


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