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Bats Sing, Mice Giggle: Revealing the secret lives of animals

Stephanie Wallis

7th September, 2009

A new book revealing the bizarre, lesser-known behaviour of animals will make you see them in a whole new light

You may already know that a decapitated cockroach can live for two weeks. But you may have been unaware that spiders taste with their feet, or some species of parrotfish wrap themselves in a layer of protective snot before they sleep.

Bats Sing, Mice Giggle is the work of neuropsychologist Karen Shanor and neuroethologist Jagmeet Kanwal who took on the task of compiling years of animal behaviour research by hundreds of scientists.

Considering the magnitude of books published on animal behaviour, it would be easy to assume that there were few surprises left from the natural world. As this book reveals however, recent technological advances have allowed scientists to make discoveries about animals' abilities.

Not just another animal fact book, Shanor and Kanwal paint a bigger picture as they delve into three primary aspects of animal life: sensing, surviving and socialising. Using a series of recent case studies and facts, they expose the lesser-known behaviour of animals, all the while relating it back to the human condition.

The authors discuss themes that we have encountered before – for instance, how animals are often more sensitive and responsive to subtle changes in their environment than humans. Some animals can detect earthquakes and disasters long before they occur, and therefore have time to escape the devastating effects.

However, it is only recently that scientists were able to prove that some animals can sense these earthquakes – sometimes up to days ahead - by detecting the variation of conditions within the earth. Human awareness of approaching earthquakes is not nearly as honed as other species. 

Perhaps the most fascinating chapter is one that focuses on socialising. The book raises an interesting question – why do we play? As Shanor and Kanwal explain, it has more of an important role in humans and animal behaviour than previously thought. Not only does it promote survival, it shapes the brain and makes animals more adaptable.

There is more to be taken from Bats Sing, Mice Giggle than you would initially think. Amongst the colourful language and witty tales of animal behaviour are relevant scientific studies, all likely to tweak our understanding of what was previously considered ‘human nature’.

Bats Sing, Mice Giggle: Revealing the Secret Lives of Animals by Karen Shanor and Jagmeet Kanwal (Icon Books £14.99)

 

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