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The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife

by Lucy Cooke

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2952289,743 (4.09)8
When seeking to understand animals, context is key. Humans have a habit of viewing the animal kingdom through the prism of our own narrow existence. Zoologist and documentary filmmaker Lucy Cooke is fascinated by the myths people create about animals to fill in the gaps in our understanding, and how much they reveal about the mechanics of discovery and the people doing the discovering. In this book she has gathered together the biggest misconceptions and mistakes made about the animal kingdom, and recounts the experiences that have opened her eyes to many surprising realities about animals and the progress of animal science. "Humans may have flown to the Moon and found the Higgs boson, but when it comes to understanding animals, We still have a long way to go. From medieval bestiaries to March of the Penguins or the latest viral video of romping panda cubs, our species relentlessly makes up stories about the virtues and vices of the creatures around us. Chaste pandas are reluctant to mate. Loyal penguins would never abandon their partners. And sloths are just, well, lazy. In reality, pandas don't just have sex; they could make Christian Grey blush. Penguins won't just cheat on a mate; they pay for sex, too. And, despite their names, sloths might just be the most successful animals on the planet. In The Truth About Animals, Lucy Cooke takes us on a global adventure to find out how the animal world really works, and why we humans keep getting it wrong. She fearlessly smears herself in hippo sweat and drinks a blended frog, all in the name of answering questions you never knew you had: What does Aristotle's obsession with eels have to do with twenty-first-century drug mafia? Do female hyenas really give birth through a penis? And why was the New England Puritan Cotton Mather certain that storks could fly into space? Funny, thought-provoking, and at times downright bizarre, The Truth About Animals reveals to us all that is weird, wild, and completely unexpected in the animal kingdom."--Dust jacket.… (more)
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» See also 8 mentions

English (21)  Dutch (1)  All languages (22)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Written in language both chummy and intensely Euro-centric. Lots of great and new facts and ways of looking at certain animals and the myths thats surround them. It very much had thr feel of chatting with the writer at a cocktail party, or perhaps its the edgy tv series she's always wanted to produce. ( )
  Glorgana | Dec 27, 2023 |
In this fascinating and fun book, each chapter focuses on an animal we humans have had misconceptions about, especially those we have historically either looked upon in scorn or regarded with disgust. Author Lucy Cooke is naturally witty and inserts just the right amount of humor into the text. Not only will you receive the gift of visualizing frogs in underpants, there are oodles of charming facts and "wow!" moments. My favorite, heart-warming passage reveals that sloths don't sleep most of their day, but instead spend the majority of their time "quietly hanging in the trees in a seemingly meditative state, motionless, with their eyes open and staring blankly into space" (would that we all could do so). ( )
  ryner | Nov 17, 2023 |
This book reads like it was written by the love child of Charles Darwin and Mary Roach. There is humor, pathos, and animal facts aplenty. The author’s writing style is easy to read and captured my attention immediately. The love Cooke has for these beasties is quite obvious from the start. Hopefully, given the facts, others will learn to appreciate these maligned characters that occupy the animal world.

Each chapter is devoted (lovingly) to a misunderstood animal, where we find myths debunked through modern science. The reader will learn about sloths, bats, and hyenas, to name a few. The author will discuss how the animals were experimented on/studied over hundreds of years (Who knew that Aristotle was a proponent of spontaneous creation?) then get to modern times, where myths are debunked and the many reasons to love these animals are revealed.

Some of the experiments detailed can be a bit gory, such as when, in the 18th century, the Catholic priest Lazzaro Spallanzani practiced blinding bats in order to find out how they managed to find their way around in darkness. (He also coated them in varnish for another experiment, but I digress). Other tales are edifying and satisfying, such as:

It may sound suspiciously like bogus medieval folk medicine, but from the 1940s through the 1960s the world’s first reliable pregnancy test was a small, bug-eyed frog. When injected with a pregnant woman’s urine, the amphibian didn’t turn blue or display stripes, but it did squirt out eggs 8-12 hours later to confirm a positive result.

Cooke’s book is full of factoids like that one. How can you not love this book? You will learn, you will laugh, and you will be full of obscure information. That sounds like a winner to me. ( )
  kwskultety | Jul 4, 2023 |
Subtitle: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife
  ProcterLibrary | Mar 9, 2023 |
A lot of fun to read. A lot of interesting info about various animals, along with funny bits about how they have been misrepresented by naturalists in the past. ( )
  steve02476 | Jan 3, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lucy Cookeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lai, Chin-yeeCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raese, JaneDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Simon, JoelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
TO THE MEMORY OF MY DAD,
who opened my eyes to the wonders
of the natural world
First words
"How can sloths exist when they're such losers?"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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When seeking to understand animals, context is key. Humans have a habit of viewing the animal kingdom through the prism of our own narrow existence. Zoologist and documentary filmmaker Lucy Cooke is fascinated by the myths people create about animals to fill in the gaps in our understanding, and how much they reveal about the mechanics of discovery and the people doing the discovering. In this book she has gathered together the biggest misconceptions and mistakes made about the animal kingdom, and recounts the experiences that have opened her eyes to many surprising realities about animals and the progress of animal science. "Humans may have flown to the Moon and found the Higgs boson, but when it comes to understanding animals, We still have a long way to go. From medieval bestiaries to March of the Penguins or the latest viral video of romping panda cubs, our species relentlessly makes up stories about the virtues and vices of the creatures around us. Chaste pandas are reluctant to mate. Loyal penguins would never abandon their partners. And sloths are just, well, lazy. In reality, pandas don't just have sex; they could make Christian Grey blush. Penguins won't just cheat on a mate; they pay for sex, too. And, despite their names, sloths might just be the most successful animals on the planet. In The Truth About Animals, Lucy Cooke takes us on a global adventure to find out how the animal world really works, and why we humans keep getting it wrong. She fearlessly smears herself in hippo sweat and drinks a blended frog, all in the name of answering questions you never knew you had: What does Aristotle's obsession with eels have to do with twenty-first-century drug mafia? Do female hyenas really give birth through a penis? And why was the New England Puritan Cotton Mather certain that storks could fly into space? Funny, thought-provoking, and at times downright bizarre, The Truth About Animals reveals to us all that is weird, wild, and completely unexpected in the animal kingdom."--Dust jacket.

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