Animal Talk, the first authoritative, popular book about animal communication, answers these and other provocative questions with often astonishing news about the latest scientific discoveries. Using his ten years of field research and numerous interviews with preeminent scientists in the field and under the sea, veteran journalist and popular science write Tim Friend helps us understand what lies behind the eyes, within the sounds and scents, and beneath the flashy displays and postures of our animal neighbors.
The world has an estimated 10 million species, all chattering away with noisy and smelly abandon, using their own seemingly unique and baffling signals. Nonetheless, Friend reveals that animals and humans can easily understand each other because every creature on earth "speaks" a common nonverbal language -- an animal Esperanto that has developed through hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Through a skillful interweaving of amazing facts and compelling true animal stories, Friend demonstrates how similar human behavior and language are to other species', including the ways we attract members of the opposite sex, rear children, and compete in society.
A scientific Dr. Dolittle, author Tim Friend is your guide on a fascinating tour of the animal kingdom. Along the way, he enlists the enthusiastic translation services of the top scientists in animal communication to show a wonderful range of animals in action, to explain the intricate ways in which they use signals, and to interpret what they mean by them. From the Amazon and Central American rainforests to deep into the Ozarks, every environment Friend visits reveals a fascinating new insight and clue to the great puzzle of how animals communicate within and between species -- and how the many tongues, stripes, and resonances of the animal kingdom laid the original foundation for our own language.
Animal Talk tells the grand story of animal communication through the stories and signals of the animals themselves. Vital to our understanding of birds and bees, dogs and dolphins, and ourselves and our fellow primates, Animal Talk is also vital to the survival of our planet.
-- The Boston Globe
"Delightful, entertaining, and instructive."
-- Publishers Weekly
"If you love animals, you'll love this book."
-- Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., author of the bestselling The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs
"An entertaining and thought-provoking tour of scientific thought."
-- Toronto Sun
"Friend flies from species to species and continent to continent, taking readers on a terrific tour of the squeaking, squawking, roaring, and raging world of animal communication. He's an excellent guide."
-- American Scientist
To be sure, reviewed here are many ways that animals communicate in which humans cannot participate. We don't use the pheromones that bacteria use to exchange information, nor do we signal bees with dances. But insects and animals use yellow or red colors as a universal signal for "stay away," and everyone knows what a rattlesnake's noise means. More significant, however, in Friend's book are the sounds that we share with other animals. Many of these are obvious. For instance, imagine you are talking to a baby; you instinctively use a high pitch and soft, smooth tones. On the other hand, if you are warning a child against touching a hot stove, you use a low pitch, harshness, and staccato. This is the sort of thing that all we animals do, universally. We humans might apply words to the sounds we emit, but we have growls, barks, and whines just as birds, dogs, and lions do. Friend draws upon the work of Eugene Morton to illustrate many instances of the grammatical rules of this nonverbal language. For instance, harsh, low frequency sounds mean the animal is thinking of attacking; high frequency sounds mean submission and lack of hostility if approached. A boss who is angry uses a low voice and stops at every word. A child who wants candy uses a high pleading voice, "Please, please, please." Using the grammar, it is possible for humans to make noises as interspecies communications, modifying the behavior of squirrels or even wolves.
In one species after another, Friend describes the different ways that dominance is asserted and settled. We aren't above such nonverbal communication. A couple of researchers went back to all the presidential debates since 1960. They found that they could pick, by deeper pitch and by voice accommodation patterns, the dominant speaker in each debate, and that the dominant speaker always went on to win the popular vote. (Perhaps the candidates now preparing for the debates ought to spend less time memorizing statistics and more time practicing pitch.) Friend's entertaining book shows that animals all over are using all sorts of surprising ways to talk to each other, and to us, and that if we will but listen, they have plenty to teach us, even about our own ways of communicating to each other.