What a fish knows

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The inner lives of our underwater cousins

Hi, welcome to Bookey. Today we will unlock the book, What a Fish Knows.

When it comes to fishes, most likely, the first thing that comes to our mind is that they are edible and delicious. Or it may remind you of the various fishes you have seen in the aquarium. If you happen to grow up by the riverside or seaside, you may have fishing experience. Another impression might be of a fishing boat on TV, and the farms in the lake and by the sea.

In terms of zoological classification, most fishes are ectotherm, or what we often call “cold-blooded animals.” This gives the impression that fishes are primitive. According to the theory of evolution, unlike amphibians and terrestrial animals, fishes didn’t evolve to live on dry land and remained in the water, which makes them seem like a more ancient organism. Besides, they have small brains, no expression on their faces, and their eyes are always wide open. It is easy for people to assume that fishes are stupid.

But today’s bookey, What a Fish Knows, will completely overturn our ideas about fish and show you the fascinating life of fishes in water.

The author of this book is Jonathan Balcombe, a well-known animal behaviorist in the United States. He used to be a narrator for the BBC and National Geographic documentaries. He wrote for newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Nature. Once published, this book soon became one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year 2016, and one of the 10 Best Popular Science Books of Nature. It was highly praised and recommended by many influential media.

The author’s interest in fish began at a summer camp at the age of eight. During a fishing event, he felt excited when the fish struck the bait, and he ate a delicious fish dish the next day. But this wonderful memory is mixed with confusion and contradiction. As a sensitive boy with a soft spot for animals, when he saw the adults extract the hook from the fish’s mouth, put them in the wire basket on the boat and watch them die slowly, he felt sad.

Later in college, the author was fascinated with ichthyology courses. He saw a variety of fish and understood their living environments. On the other hand, killing live fish in experiments and observing them under a dissecting microscope made him upset.

Once, the author visited a museum in Canada, and saw an enormous lake trout weighing more than a hundred pounds reserved in an oily preservative. He thought that the fish was once a living thing, wandering freely in the water, but now it floats in darkness, polluted by chemicals. He thought it would have been better had she been eaten, her tissues recycling back into the food chain. The author felt for that fish at the moment.

These bits of experiences prompted the author to write this book. He interspersed scientific knowledge with the stories between humans and fish, showing people the unknown side of fish. This is entirely different from the practical value of fish in human eyes, for example, as food, or ornamental objects. The author opposes that fish are only exploited as resources like wheat and soybeans -- they are living, thoughtful individuals.

From the perspective of multiple disciplines, animal ethology, biosociology, neurobiology and ecology, the author uses vivid and interesting examples and detailed data, which gives us a better understanding on the world of fishes: how they think, feel, and adapt to the external environment. He hopes that with this book, humans will be able to re-examine their relationship with fish.

Next, we’ll share with you the key insights of the book, What a Fish Knows, in 4 parts:

In the first part, we’ll learn about the super abilities and rich emotions of the fish;

In the second part, we’ll find that fish think and socialize;

In the third part, we will reveal that breeding is not easy for fishes, and raising offspring is even harder;

In the fourth part, we’ll discuss the relationship between humans and fish.

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