Do you think your dog talks to you? Are those noisy birds actually chattering about you behind your back? Is what we are perceiving language or something else?
All animals communicate, from tiny worms who broadcast their reproductive needs by releasing scents, to troops of chimpanzees who teach one another to make tools. The amount of information animals transmit varies tremendously—and so does the way they share that information.
Most scientists believe that only human beings have true language, and if that is so, then we are truly different from all other animals. Arik Kershenbaum, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge, has studied the meaning in animal communication, from wolves, to dolphins, to birds. He explores animal communication, the differences between language and communication, and whether we will ever be able to understand what animals are saying—or if they are saying anything at all.
In his recent book, The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy: What Animals on Earth Reveal About Aliens—and Ourselves, Kershenbaum examines the broad features uniting all life on Earth—and theorizes what lifeforms might be like on other planets.
The Zoologist’s Guide (Penguin Press) is available for purchase.
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