Aesop’s Animals: The Science Behind the Fables (Paperback)

Aesop’s Animals: The Science Behind the Fables By Jo Wimpenny Cover Image
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Despite originating more than two-and-a-half thousand years ago, Aesop's Fables are still passed on from parent to child, and are embedded in our collective consciousness. The morals we have learned from these tales continue to inform our judgements, but have the stories also informed how we regard their animal protagonists? Are wolves deceptive villains? Are crows insightful geniuses? And could a tortoise really beat a hare in a race? What truths about the animal world lie behind these tales?

In Aesop's Animals, zoologist Jo Wimpenny turns a critical eye to the fables to examine the science behind Aesop's portrayal of the animal kingdom. She brings the tales into the twenty-first century, introducing the latest findings from the world of behavioural ecology – the study of why animals do the things they do, in areas such as tool use, plans and projections, self-recognition, cooperation and deception. How close to verifiable scientific truths do these ancient tales lay?

Sifting facts from fiction, Aesop's Animals explores and challenges our notions about animals, the ways in which they behave, and the roles we both play in our shared world.

About the Author

Jo Wimpenny is a zoologist and writer, with a research background in animal behaviour and the history of science. She studied Zoology at the University of Bristol, and went on to research problem-solving in crows for her DPhil at Oxford University. After postdoctoral research on the history of ornithology at Sheffield, she co-authored the book Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology Since Darwin with Tim Birkhead and Bob Montgomerie, which won the 2015 PROSE award for History of Science, Medicine and Technology.

Jo writes for BBC Wildlife and has previously presented at the BA Festival of Science, Science Oxford, the Royal Society Summer Science Fair and Glasgow Science Fair.

Praise For…

“Come for the fables and stay for the behavioral research in this jam-packed but delightful collection … Aesop's Animals is both an intense and playful look at how humans - storytellers and scientists alike - consider the mysteries inside the creatures with whom we share this planet.” —Scientific American

“A spirited romp through modern cognitive ethology.” —Wall Street Journal

Engaging and comprehensive, this is highly readable popular science.” —Hannah Beckerman, The Observer

“Every once in a publisher's blue moon, along comes a book so simple and original in its concept that it verges on brilliance and 1,000 science and nature writers howl: "Why did we not think of it?" Such is Aesop's Animals by zoologist Jo Wimpenny, which does precisely what it says on the lid: it puts the anthropomorphic fables of Aesop under the electron microscope of modern science. […] a clever cadastral survey of animal behavioural studies.” —Country Life

“I simply couldn't put it down. The clever ways in which Wimpenny weaves in current scientific facts about topics including future planning, tool use, self-recognition, cooperation, and deception with Aesop's lessons was spellbinding.” —Psychology Today

“Combining the latest discoveries in animal behavior with compelling storytelling, Aesop's Animals offers a head-spinning tour of recent research on the minds of other creatures. From tool-making crows to altruistic vampire bats and Machiavellian baboons, Jo Wimpenny deftly separates fact from fiction in our beliefs about the behavior and mental lives of other species.” —Hal Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals

“Wimpenny has the knack for bringing interesting research to life with anecdotes without obscuring the more significant challenges of determining just what animals can do and what they may be thinking.” —Wellbeing International

“Wimpenny pumps life into the hard science and keeps her discussions accessible, offering plenty of insight into how humans interpret the natural world.” —Publishers Weekly

“Promising to uncover the science behind the famous and ancient fables, this book does exactly that, and with great charm. The science is dealt with thoroughly and in great detail, but without sacrificing any readability, and the result is a series of insights into subjects such as corvid intelligence.” —Bird Watching

“The book's greatest strength is its detailed exploration of animal minds. Wimpenny carefully shows us how they differ from our own - and yet how, in many ways, they're not so different at all.” —Undark

Product Details
ISBN: 9781472966926
ISBN-10: 1472966929
Publisher: Bloomsbury Sigma
Publication Date: January 9th, 2024
Pages: 368
Language: English