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Animal Talk: Breaking the Codes of Animal Language [Anglais] [Relié]

Tim Friend
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Description de l'ouvrage

8 janvier 2004
Is it possible that there is a universal language spoken and understood by all animals on earth, including humans? Is human language unique, as linguists and philosphers have taught for centuries, or could it share and combine well-developed components of other species' communications? Do you long to know what wild animals are discussing and what your dog, cat, bird, fish, or horse is really saying?
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.

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Descriptions du produit


Chapter One: A Walk in the Park: Toward a Universal Language

Just before midnight, I crawl off my hammock and slip quietly from under the blessed drapes of mosquito netting. The kerosene lanterns have been dimmed to barely a flicker across the long raised wooden platform that serves as our base camp in the tropical rain forest of northwestern Peru. The platform is in the center of a clearing next to the bank of a small tributary that feeds into the Napo River half a mile away. I arrived with four other journalists and a guide late in the afternoon after hiking through the muddy and tangled jungle since early morning. We have joined two scientists, a few camp cooks, and the drunken pilot of a Cessna seaplane, who arrived just before dinner. The pilot is supposed to give us a flyover of the region first thing after breakfast. As much Johnny Walker Red scotch as he was putting away tonight, he'll still be drunk when we take off on the river early in the morning. The bush pilot's creed is, If you can't fly drunk, you can't fly.

This is my first trip to the Amazon rain forest. The closest I have come to a jungle until now is the tangled thicket of the Ozarks, where I grew up. Surprisingly, there are a lot of similarities, especially in the number of things that bite, sting, scratch, and burn. At the moment, the others in the expedition party are snoring. But that isn't why I'm awake. There's a raucous party going on -- with lots of wild action by the strange and wondrous creatures all around our campsite. The night is teeming with sounds that seem louder and more intriguing than anything I have ever heard.

A minute ago, high in the canopy just beyond the camp's perimeter, something big crashed through the leaves. The only creature large enough around here to make such noise is a sloth. True to its name, it does not seem to be in much of a hurry. Bats have been fluttering since dusk through the rafters of the thatched roof above the platform. Earlier this evening, one swooped down and snatched a tarantula that was crawling up a colleague's mosquito netting. We could hear a soft crunch as the bat caught the spider with its teeth and darted off with its dinner into the night.

Beyond the camp, in vibrant surround sound, tree frogs and insects are laying down a soulful, energetic chorus like a choir at an old-fashioned Southern tent revival. Unfamiliar birds and nocturnal monkeys overlay the chorus with melodies and their own unique lyrics. This is one party I am not going to miss despite the rather condescending warning of the scientists not to leave camp alone at night. We could get lost or worse, they cautioned. I spend quite a bit of time in the field, but no matter where I travel, scientists tend to treat journalists like bad children who need constant supervision. Their admonishment only heightens my resolve to sneak out of camp.

The main attraction of this remote spot in the jungle is a canopy walkway constructed with ladders and suspension bridges that leads 115 feet straight up to the tops of the trees. Ordinarily, getting to the upper canopy entails climbing with harnesses and ropes. This is no simple task and usually involves close encounters of the unpleasant kind with nasty things that sting, burn, and bite. The canopy walkway, which bears a strong resemblance to the Swiss family Robinson's tree house, is a vast improvement on grappling and slapping one's way up. As far as I know, only a few of these walkways exist in the world. Tonight, this one is going to be my stairway to heaven.

I am on a mission and have a woefully short time to fulfill it: to learn how animals communicate with each other and what they spend so much time chattering to each other about. At this point, my quest seems absolutely overwhelming. Real experts devote entire careers to studying a single species of animal and are still left with many more questions than answers at the end of the day. My head is full of questions, too, which I plan to explore and explain in this book: If animal behavior is mostly instinctual, as scientists generally thought for more than a hundred years, why do animals need to communicate? If animals are thinking creatures and capable of emotions, as a growing number of scientists now believe, do their signals convey information (similar to our words)? Or are animals merely snarling or cooing to manipulate each other's behavior to get something they want (as we also often do)? How did the colorful, noisy, and smelly signals of the animal kingdom arise in the first place? Is any animal system of communication similar to human language? Do animals ever lie or attempt to deceive each other when communicating? Do the chirps, barks, and roars of different species have anything in common or follow predictable rules or patterns? Can a bird understand a monkey? Do species learn to communicate or is it all programmed by genes? To what extent is human communication, both verbal and nonverbal, programmed into our genes?

Scientists have been asking questions like these and working hard at finding the answers for more than a century, but there have been an enormous number of recent discoveries about animal communication. Studies on communication among tree frogs alone could fill a book. The eminent sociobiologist E. O. Wilson and the entomologist Bert Hölldobler produced a 732-page tome devoted to ants. I have three books in my home library on cichlid fishes, seven devoted to primates, five on dogs, more than a dozen on various species of birds. Most books focus on a single behavior, such as courtship rituals among birds, or the social behavior of primates, or the chemical signals of insects.

Yet surprisingly few books written for the general public have focused on the great range of animal communication. Usually, these books devote only a chapter or two to songs, dances, and scents. So my challenge here is to draw from the wealth of research conducted by hundreds of scientists and present the bigger picture of animal talk in the wild. The Amazon rain forest seemed like the best place to get a full immersion in nature and to begin eavesdropping on some animal conversations.

The few remaining unspoiled rain forests of the world are nature's Manhattan, London, and Tokyo -- bustling organic metropolises with their own laws that govern every creature equally from conception through life and into death. The laws of nature demand procreation and a fight for survival, but the means developed to achieve those ends are tremendously varied. Mother Nature has fostered all manner of societies, cultures, learning, gaming, altruism, deception, cooperation, competition, industries, arms races, and intelligence. Look closely at any habitat and you can find daily dramas involving struggles between predators and prey, elaborate courtships, covert copulations, sibling rivalries, struggles for dominance, defense of territories, and many, many opportunities to arrive at a premature death. The same dramas are played out all over the world in every environment, from the deep ocean vents where microscopic life may have begun to the lawns and shrubs only a few steps away in the backyard.

Communication between all of the earth's creatures makes these dramas possible. Indeed, communication is the glue of animal societies. Without a means of communicating, no life, including the simplest single-celled organisms, could exist. Communication, like the tango, takes two. And it requires a signal, which can be anything from the release of chemicals between colonizing bacteria, to the come-hither flashes between male and female fireflies in the backyard, to the "let's go" rumble of African elephants, to the "signature" whistles of dolphins, to a dog barking simply to be let outside.

Over the course of our journey we will explore the origins of communication and how all of the marvelous signals employed by animals have developed. We will also look at why scientists think the way they do about animals. A pretty big divide separates scientists and laypeople, especially in their perspectives on animal behaviors. Yet, as ordinary people and pet owners become more informed and as scientists come to better appreciate the genuine intelligence of their animal subjects, both groups are moving toward a middle ground.

Before we head off into the jungle and climb the canopy walkway, we ought to know what scientists mean when they talk about animal communication. The basic textbook definition of animal communication taught to most undergraduate students states that it is "the provision of information by a sender to a receiver, and the subsequent use of that information by the receiver in deciding how to respond. The vehicle that provides the information is called the signal." One example of animal communication is the exchange between songbirds in a tree in the backyard. The male songbird is usually the sender. He sings his repertoire of songs, which is the signal, to a female songbird that has lighted on a nearby branch to listen. She is the receiver. The information would be something contained in the male's songs that helps the female decide whether the singer is a suitable mate. An exception to this male-dominated art and science is the northern cardinal -- each sex sings to the other, and they even seem to duet. My mom's fat little Chihuahua, Taco, is another example. Taco has a habit of running to my mom and barking in a particular manner whenever my dad does not hang up his jacket when he comes home from work. Taco is the sender. Mom is the receiver, and the information is that dad left his jacket on the bed. (How my mom knows Taco's bark carries this specific meaning, however, is a mystery.)

E. O. Wilson takes the definition a bit further in Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. Wilson defines communication this way: "Biological communication is the action on the part of one organism (or cell) that alters the probability pattern of behavior in another organism (or cell) in a fashion adaptive to either one or both of the participants. By adaptive I mean that the signaling, or the response, ...

Revue de presse

Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D. author of the bestselling The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs If you love animals, you'll love this book. Animal Talk combines up-to-date knowledge about animal communication with Tim Friend's clear writing and compelling fascination with animals and the people who study them.

Frans de Waal author of The Ape and the Sushi Master In a very enjoyable and well-informed book, Tim Friend argues that modern science is surpassing Dr. Dolittle. We know enough about the communication of other species to conclude, with the author, that animals may not have language, but they have plenty to say.

Détails sur le produit

  • Relié: 288 pages
  • Editeur : Atria Books (8 janvier 2004)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0743201574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743201575
  • Dimensions du produit: 22,5 x 13,9 x 2,4 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 524.292 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
  • Table des matières complète
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Commentaires client les plus utiles
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Grrrrr 22 mai 2014
Par Boomahaw
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Waf Waf Waf

Excellent book on "non-verbal communication"... the language of all living creatures on Earth, Mankind included !
A must-read !
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.4 étoiles sur 5  9 commentaires
13 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Who Needs Dr. Dolittle? 9 mars 2004
Par R. Hardy - Publié sur
Current understanding of human language says that we all have portions of our brains directly assigned to language processing, and that every human language is at foundation the same, with nouns, verbs, and so on all doing the same job in each. As described by one theorist, a man from Mars examining humans might find we were all speaking the same language, only in different dialects. What if we looked at an even broader sample of creatures on the planet? Tim Friend, a science journalist, in _Animal Talk: Breaking the Codes of Animal Language_, reviews all the many ways that animals have of talking to each other (not just by sound), to find that there is a far broader understanding between animals of different species (including humans) than we may have guessed before. Humans have developed remarkable and complex verbal languages, but it's the nonverbal communication that we often share with animals. It is not too surprising, given that natural selection and sexual selection have operated on us all from the beginning, that we animals share a range of signals. Not only that, but we talk about the same things every day: "... that is, sex, real estate, who's boss, and what's for dinner."
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.
10 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A wonderful read! 4 janvier 2004
Par P. Degtjarewsky - Publié sur
I cannot recommend this book enough to others who are interested in learning about animal communication. The author makes complex theories fun, understandable and enjoyable to read. There is a section on vervets in chapter two that will blow your mind!
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Probes all the potentials of animal communication methods 7 juin 2005
Par Midwest Book Review - Publié sur
Have you ever wondered if animals are 'talking' and if so, what they're saying? Scientists have been trying to decipher 'animal talk' for centuries, as scientist Tim friend explores in his Animal Talk: Breaking The Codes Of Animal Languages. Here's his Rosetta stone for understanding this language, fostering a readable, fun language while exploring serious scientific breakthroughs on the topic of animal communication. From biology to chemistry and beyond, Animal Talk probes all the potentials of animal communication methods.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Scaling nature's tower of Babel 28 février 2006
Par Newton Ooi - Publié sur
A subtle theme occasionally parodied in cartoons and comic strips is how pets often look like their owners. Did this physical similarity lead to the pairing, or did it occur after the pairing? This book might suggest the latter. Specifically, Tim Friend, the author of this book, argues that many animals, especially those closely related to each other, share a common language of sounds, facial expressions, body postures, chemical signals, and other signals not tradionally classified as a verbal language. This form of interspecial communication evolved thru the same Darwinian mechanisms as physical features such as arm length, skin color, and eyesight.

The author looks at specific behaviors among various animals, both within and between species, to prove his point. For example, many dog owners truly believe they can understand their dogs, and vice versa. Bad behavior can be corrected by growls or orders, depending on who is scolding whom. Could all these people be wrong? Likewise, in the wild, animals of different species often interact thru sounds and smells as part of living in a shared environment. This can include the division of prey among different predators, or the sharing of a field by different herbivores.

All in all, this is an interesting book. It is good reading; quite interesting with enough science to keep you interested, but not too much to warrant a science degree. I highly recommend it.
5 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Easy going style, organization & science explanations suffer 16 mars 2004
Par chenoameg - Publié sur
A well-travelled science writer with an enjoyable style discusses various types of animal communication, from vocalizations to pheramones. Unfortunately the light-hearted writing sometimes gets in the way of presenting interesting information. (But there's some great stuff about the sex lives of dolphins in chapter nine.) If you usually find science books too dry or are interested in animals, give this a try.
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