- Safina’s latest book, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, came out in 2015, and is due for a paperback release on July 12 via Picador.
- “It’s about the thought and emotional range of non-human animals, but including humans,” Safina told Mongabay.
- Safina’s list of stand-out stories includes several oceans and marine life stories, a couple that just show how similar to humans animals can really be, and a few that will interest anyone concerned with the plight of the natural world.
Marine biologist Carl Safina is a noted author and research professor at Stony Brook University, where he focuses on ocean sciences and is co-chair of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.
Safina’s latest book, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, came out in 2015 and is due for a paperback release on July 12 via Picador. “It’s about the thought and emotional range of non-human animals, but including humans,” Safina told Mongabay.
The book focuses on several highly social creatures, including elephants, killer whales, and wolves — all species that are likely to be familiar to most people. But, as Safina points out, most people don’t know how these animals actually live, or what their lives are like as individuals.
“We are all on a continuum, and all life really is one. That’s the most basic message,” Safina said. “These other creatures have lives, and they’re not too unlike ours. In the broad strokes, they’re quite similar to ours. They try very hard to stay alive, they try hard to keep their babies alive. They know who their friends and enemies are, they know who to go to when they’re in need.”
Safina said he did not want the book to be about “conservation issues.” Instead, he wanted the animals to make the case for their own existence.
“We assume all species are interchangeable, but individuals are individuals in many species, not just humans,” he said. “The questions many people are still stuck with — Are they even conscious? Do animals feel any emotion? — those questions, when you think about what we know about brains and nervous systems, about hormones and evolution and the logic of behaviors — those are absurd questions, I think we can very firmly say.”
Here are some recent stories that stand out to Carl Safina, just in time for World Oceans Day. He called it “a subjective list of things that made an impression” — so it includes several oceans and marine life stories, of course, but also a few that just show how similar to humans animals can really be, and a couple others that will interest anyone concerned with the plight of the natural world.
1. Sharks have personalities just like you and me
“Over the past few decades, personality research has shown that nearly 200 species of animals demonstrate individual personality,” said Macquarie University’s Evan Byrnes, the lead author of a study published in the Journal of Fish Biology this month that concluded individual sharks have personalities just like you and me. “Personality is no longer considered a strictly human characteristic, rather it is a characteristic deeply engrained in our evolutionary past.”
2. Parrots are a lot more than ‘pretty bird’
“Out of the cage, they speak their own language, make tools, and wreak havoc on plants and researchers’ efforts alike.”
3. Manta rays are first fish to recognize themselves in a mirror
“Only a small number of animals, mostly primates, have passed the mirror test, widely used as a tentative test of self-awareness.
“‘This new discovery is incredibly important,’ says Marc Bekoff, of the University of Colorado in Boulder. ‘It shows that we really need to expand the range of animals we study.’”
4. Do honeybees feel? Scientists are entertaining the idea
“As scientists lean increasingly toward recognizing that nonhuman animals are conscious in one way or another, the question becomes: Where does consciousness end?”
5. Dog-like carnivores, some primate species may have a magnetic compass similar to that of birds
“The magnetic sense in migratory birds has been studied in considerable detail: unlike a boy scout’s compass, which shows the compass direction, a bird’s compass recognizes the inclination of the magnetic field lines relative to Earth’s surface. Now scientists report that dog-like carnivores and some primate species may have a magnetic compass similar to that of birds.”
6. If gorilla’s death moves you, consider other animals’ plights
“What happened to Harambe was a catastrophe, but one so rare as to be almost unprecedented. The treatment of so many millions of animals raised for food can be just business as usual.”
7. Over 90% of Great Barrier Reef suffering from coral bleaching
“As much as 93% of the 2,300 km (1,429 miles) reef suffers from some level of bleaching, according to the report from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. Bleaching occurs when algae that live inside corals and give them their color are expelled — either due to increased sea temperatures or extreme weather events.”
8. Oceans will have more plastic than fish by 2050, study says
“The world’s oceans will be filled with more plastic mass than fish mass by 2050, the World Economic Forum said Tuesday.”
9. U.S. adopts near-total ivory ban
“The regulations, which take effect on July 6, amount to a near-total ban on the commercial trade of African elephant ivory. Current law allows for the sale of ivory and ivory products in limited cases where the seller can prove the ivory is old and was lawfully imported. But the new rules further restrict exports and sales across state lines, as well as limit ivory trophy imports to two per year, per hunter. Ivory trophy imports are currently unlimited.”
10. 2015 was hottest year in historical record, scientists say
“2015 was the hottest year in the historical record by far, breaking a mark set only the year before — a burst of heat that has continued into the new year and is roiling weather patterns all over the world.”