Author: Jonathan Balcombe

  • Misstatements about Jonathan published in new book

    Misstatements about Jonathan published in new book

    UPDATE: the publisher has agreed to replace the erroneous passage with the following sentence: “Fish authority Jonathan Balcombe views the morality of fish-eating as a serious matter, and he abstains from eating animals, fish included.” Jonathan’s book “What a Fish Knows” is now cited in Nussbaum’s book and included in the index. Several erroneous statements […]

  • If animal dreams imply sentience, their emotions imply soul

    If animal dreams imply sentience, their emotions imply soul

    A study recently published in a prestigious journal reports a surprise finding: that jumping spiders twitch during sleep in a way that resembles what cats, dogs and other mammals do during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The German researchers noticed eye movements happening at the same time as leg jerks, suggesting that these spiders dream. […]

  • Extreme longevity in fishes in “Nautilus magazine”

    Extreme longevity in fishes in “Nautilus magazine”

    On July 31, my mother celebrated her 88th birthday. Based on recent discoveries, it is quite possible—even likely—that a fish somewhere turned 88 on the same day. It could have been a snapper. In one study of 476 snappers of three species caught along the Western Australian coast and the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian […]

  • Jake And Ava ~ A Boy And A Fish | A Children’s Picture Book By Jonathan Balcombe

    Jake And Ava ~ A Boy And A Fish | A Children’s Picture Book By Jonathan Balcombe

      From New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Balcombe comes this charming and affecting tale of young Jake, who on his first fishing trip with his grandfather, makes a crucial discovery when he meets Ava, an archerfish, caught on his line. This tender tale will evoke empathy in young readers. And, the art is exquisite.” […]

  • The Lives Of Flies – New York Times

    The Lives Of Flies – New York Times

    The New York Times Book Review | Hosted by Pamela Paul | July 9, 2021

    The Lives of Flies

    Jonathan Balcombe talks about “Super Fly” and Marjorie Ingall discusses Holocaust literature for children
    The subtitle of Jonathan Balcombe’s new book, “Super Fly: The Unexpected Lives of the World’s Most Successful Insects” leads to the first question on this week’s podcast. Why “successful”? “Their diversity, for one,” Balcombe says. “There’s over 160,000 described species — and it’s important to add that qualifier, ‘described,’ because it’s estimated there may be about five times that many that are undescribed. Insects make up 80 percent of all animal species on the planet, so that says something right there about how incredibly successful they are, and flies are arguably the most species-rich subset of insects. It’s estimated there’s about 20 million flies on earth at any moment for every human who’s on the earth. And they occupy all seven continents.” Marjorie Ingall visits the podcast this week to discuss her essay about why she finds it troubling that children’s literature focuses so relentlessly on the Holocaust. To listen to the interview online at The New York Times ~ please click here.

  • Minding Nemo

    Minding Nemo

    How fishes live and die in the human world. By: Jonathan Balcombe My boyhood relationship to fishes probably was not untypical of other boyhoods, with the possible exception that I was born with an unusually strong empathy for other creatures. A summer camp fishing outing when I was 8 years old left me confused when […]

  • There Is So Much You Don’t Know About Being A Fly

    There Is So Much You Don’t Know About Being A Fly

      In Super Fly Jonathan Balcombe explores the world of the most annoying creature, moving beyond the buzz and drone. Book Review by: Rebecca Giggs – please click here to read full article. Please click the book cover image, if you wish to purchase the book.

  • Latest Book: Super Fly

    Latest Book: Super Fly

    Winner Of The National Outdoor Book Award | Natural History Literature

    From an expert in animal consciousness, a book that will turn the fly on the wall into the elephant in the room.
    For most of us, the only thing we know about flies is that they’re annoying, and our usual reaction is to try to kill them. In Super Fly, the myth-busting biologist Jonathan Balcombe shows the order Diptera in all of its diversity, illustrating the essential role that flies play in every ecosystem in the world as pollinators, waste-disposers, predators, and food source; and how flies continue to reshape our understanding of evolution. Along the way, he reintroduces us to familiar foes like the fruit fly and mosquito, and gives us the chance to meet their lesser-known cousins like the Petroleum Fly (the only animal in the world that breeds in crude oil) and the Chocolate Midge (the sole pollinator of the Cacao tree). No matter your outlook on our tiny buzzing neighbors, Super Fly will change the way you look at flies forever. To Read More – Please Click Here

  • Fish Are Not Office Decorations

    Fish Are Not Office Decorations

    In our fast-paced, human-centered lives, we are often oblivious to the remarkable capacities of so many animal species, like those of our underwater cousins: fish. Article: The Globe And Mail, February 09, 2019 Author: Jonathan Balcombe Website: The Globe And Mail Extract: I have spent years exploring the inner lives of fish. What I’ve uncovered […]

  • Private Consultations For Authors

    Private Consultations For Authors

    How To Write And Publish Your Non-Fiction Book

    As the author of five popular science books, including a New York Times best-seller, I have learned a good deal about the ins and outs of getting a nonfiction book published. I now offer private, paid, one-on-one consultations to aspiring authors seeking to publish their nonfiction book ideas. In addition to steering you through key steps to success, I will provide guidance and feedback on your project. Please contact me for more information or to schedule a consultation.

  • Sign Up For All Things Fish (And Fly)!

    Sign Up For All Things Fish (And Fly)!

    Email Jonathan to sign up for all things fish!

    Receive a monthly update from Jonathan on his best-selling book, “What A Fish Knows”, exciting new scientific discoveries, eye-opening videos, and a chance to win a signed copy of the book! To sign up for Jonathan’s monthly newsletter, please click here or use the blue “Subscribe to All Things Fish” box below.

  • What A Fish Knows

    What A Fish Knows

    The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins:

    About The Book:

    Do fishes think? Do they really have three-second memories? And can they recognize the humans who peer back at them from above the surface of the water?

    In What a Fish Knows, the myth-busting ethologist Jonathan Balcombe addresses these questions and more, taking us under the sea, through streams and estuaries, and to the other side of the aquarium glass to reveal the surprising capabilities of fishes.

    Although there are more than thirty thousand species of fish―more than all mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians combined―we rarely consider how individual fishes think, feel, and behave.

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  • Piebald Ethics

    Piebald Ethics

    This morning, still recovering from jetlag, I went for a bike ride as the sun rose on the suburbs north of Washington, DC. As I cycled through one of the lovely state parks that grace my neighborhood, I spooked a small herd of deer enjoying some browse at the border of a woodland and field. At first I thought they were accompanied by a domestic dog, until I realized I had seen a piebald white-tailed deer.

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  • Fishes Have Feelings Too

    Fishes Have Feelings Too

    First Published: May 15th, 2016 – The New York Times

    In March, two marine biologists published a study of giant manta rays responding to their reflections in a large mirror installed in their aquarium in the Bahamas. The two captive rays circled in front of the mirror, blew bubbles and performed unusual body movements as if checking their reflection. They made no obvious attempt to interact socially with their reflections, suggesting that they did not mistake what they saw as other rays.

    The scientists concluded that the mantas seemed to be recognizing their reflections as themselves.

    Mirror self-recognition is a big deal. It indicates self-awareness, a mental attribute previously known only among creatures of noted intelligence like great apes, dolphins, elephants and magpies. We don’t usually think of fishes as smart, let alone self-aware.

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  • Nature’s Glass Is Half Full – Not Half Empty

    Nature’s Glass Is Half Full – Not Half Empty

    A recent article by British scientist and author Matt Ridley denies rats the capacity for empathy primarily on the flimsy basis that studies on ants show them helping a distressed fellow ant. As it seems “absurd” to attribute empathic suffering to a social insect, we should not stoop to crediting such feelings to rats either, according to Ridley, and the authors of a recent paper in Biology Letters.

    For the record, I have great respect for ants, and I won’t jump to conclusions about their capacities. But why on earth would we use ants as a yardstick for the emotional capacities of rats—a species with a demonstrated capacity for laughter, pessimism, emotional fever, and metacognition (awareness of one’s own knowledge)?

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  • Fishes In Good Company

    Fishes In Good Company

    Book Review Of What A Fish Knows:

    Paul Taunton’s list of must-read books for June in The National Post includes, “What A Fish Knows”:
    What A Fish Knows Book Cover - SmallFrom big-bet debuts to money-in-the-bank authors – not to mention a book about fish that might change the way you feel about your favourite breaded filet – here’s the National Post’s Books Editor’s recommended reading for June.

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  • Backyard Nature

    Backyard Nature

    It’s a Sunday morning and I’m sitting on my deck in the outer suburbs of Washington, D.C., which abuts a magnificent woodland plot.

    In the winter one can just see through the naked trees to a field 500 feet beyond. But in summer this space is transformed into a lush green world. Regardless of the season it throngs with life, but it seems that summer days are the busiest. I have the added good fortune of having neighbors who ply the wildlife with a smorgasbord of bird and mammal feeders, so it sometimes looks like rush-hour at Grand Central Station.

    This morning I’ve been out here for an hour and as usual there are plenty of little stories unraveling.

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  • A Dog’s Will

    A Dog’s Will

    This morning as I went to fetch the paper from the front porch of my town-home in suburban Maryland, a neighbor took her dog across the parking area to a central green-space for a morning bathroom break.

    I’ve seen this mid-sized, thickly furred canine on her morning ablutions before.

    Usually it’s the man of the house who is on the other end of the retractable leash, but in either case, there’s a sense of rush-hour haste to the operation. These folks clearly have jobs to get to and the AM dog shift is all business—I only hope the evening walk is less perfunctory.

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  • Fur


    This morning I went grocery shopping at my local Whole Foods market. Whole Foods is the largest natural foods supermarket chain in the world. I consider people who shop here to be relatively enlightened.

    I saw at least six people wearing coats with real fur trim collars.

    Fur Fact: the fur industry has staged something of a come-back since it reached its low point in the mid-nineties.

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  • A Sparrow’s Life

    A Sparrow’s Life

    Yesterday as I stepped from the train on my way to a Bach concert, I noticed a house sparrow lying prostrate on the platform next to a rain shelter.

    No doubt she had flown into the shelter’s window. Hoping she was just stunned, I picked her up. Alas, she was quite dead.

    I stroked the soft feathers on her neck and head, noted the robustness of her pink beak, and admired the perfect symmetry of her tail feathers before depositing her beneath some ground ivy, where ants, flies and other members of nature’s recycling crew might perform their services undisturbed.

    House sparrows are commonplace in the United States, and Washington, D.C. is no exception. They lurk in my neighborhood, chirping from eaves, taking shelter beneath cars, and holding noisy palavers inside cedar trees.

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  • Rarities


    The rarity was a fox sparrow, by no means an endangered species, but one of those birds that most people who share its geographic range will go through life with no clue to its existence.

    As a bird watcher for over 30 years, I had encountered fox sparrows on just four prior occasions. Through the naked eye, a fox sparrow wouldn’t merit a second glance. A small brown bird flitting furtively in the brush, they are what some might dismiss colloquially as an LBJ.

    Through binoculars, “little brown job” resolves into a strikingly handsome creature: eyes ringed with white, arrow-head spots corn-rowed down a snow-white breast and converging into a central spot, and a robust, bi-colored beak. For me, a fox sparrow sighting instantly transforms even the most ordinary nature foray into a memorable event.

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  • The Animal Power Of Video

    The Animal Power Of Video

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    If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a thousand pictures. One of the rewards of being a passionate animal observer in this day and age is the proliferation of video clips that circulate on YouTube and Facebook. These authentic segments of animal lives provide precious glimpses of their emotions, and they often belie common prejudices about animals and nature.

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  • Book: The Exultant Ark

    Book: The Exultant Ark

    About The Book:

    The Exultant Ark Book Cover - SmallNature documentaries often depict animal life as a grim struggle for survival, but this visually stunning book opens our eyes to a different, more scientifically up-to-date way of looking at the animal kingdom.

    In more than one hundred thirty striking images, The Exultant Ark celebrates the full range of animal experience with dramatic portraits of animal pleasure ranging from the charismatic and familiar to the obscure and bizarre.

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  • Book: Second Nature

    Book: Second Nature

    The Inner Lives of Animals

    Second Nature Book CoverAbout The Book:

    For centuries we believed that humans were the only ones that mattered. The idea that animals had feelings was either dismissed or considered heresy. Today, that’s all changing.

    New scientific studies of animal behavior reveal perceptions, intelligences, awareness and social skills that would have been deemed fantasy a generation ago. The implications make our troubled relationship to animals one of the most pressing moral issues of our time.

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  • Book: Pleasurable Kingdom

    Book: Pleasurable Kingdom

    Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good

    Pleasurable Kingdom Book Cover

    About The Book:

    The recognition of animal pain and stress, once controversial, is now acknowledged by legislation in many countries, but there is no formal recognition of animals’ ability to feel pleasure.

    Pleasurable Kingdom is the first book for lay-readers to present new evidence that animals – like humans – enjoy themselves.

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  • Book: The Use Of Animals In Higher Education

    Book: The Use Of Animals In Higher Education

    About This Book:

    The Use Of Animals In Higher Education Book Cover This book presents a comprehensive examination from an ethical and humane perspective of the use of animals in education.

    The book covers animal use in all levels of education from middle school to advanced veterinary and medical training; however,emphasis is on those grades in which animal use is greatest in the secondary and undergraduate levels.

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