The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy: What Animals on Earth Reveal about Aliens – and about Ourselves


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The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy: What Animals on Earth Reveal about Aliens – and about Ourselves Author: Format: Hardback First Published: Published By: Penguin Books Ltd Pages: 368 Language: English ISBN: 9780241406793 Categories: , , , , ,

We are unprepared for the greatest discovery of modern science. Scientists are confident that there is alien life across the universe yet we have not moved beyond our perception of ‘aliens’ as Hollywood stereotypes. The time has come to abandon our fixation on alien monsters and place our expectations on solid scientific footing.

Using his own expert understanding of life on Earth and Darwin’s theory of evolution – which applies throughout the universe – Cambridge zoologist Dr Arik Kershenbaum explains what alien life must be like: how these creatures will move, socialise and communicate. For example, by observing fishes whose electrical pulses indicate social status, we can see that other planets might allow for communication by electricity. As there was evolutionary pressure to wriggle along a sea floor, Earthling animals tend to have left/right symmetry; on planets where creatures evolved mid-air or in soupy tar they might be lacking any symmetry at all.

Might there be an alien planet with supersonic animals? Will they scream with fear, act honestly, or have technology? Is the universe swarming with robots? Dr Kershenbaum uses cutting-edge science to paint an entertaining and compelling picture of extra-terrestrial life. The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy is the story of how life really works, on Earth and in space.

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I love The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy by Arik Kershenbaum. Although it sets out to be (and is) about alien life, what emerges is a wonderfully insightful sidelong look at Earthly biology -- Richard Dawkins, via Twitter If you don't want to be surprised by extraterrestrial life, look no further than this lively overview of the laws of evolution that have produced life on earth. -- Frans de Waal, author of Mama's Last Hug A fun, and thoroughly biological, exploration of possible and impossible alien beings. If you'd love to know what real aliens from other planets might really be like, this is the book for you -- Susan Blackmore, author of Seeing Myself Surveying the deep-time of evolution on Earth and his own cutting-edge research into animal communication, Kershenbaum provides a fascinating insight into the deepest of questions: what might an alien actually look like -- Lewis Dartnell, author of Origins When we search for aliens, what are we searching for? If life exists on other worlds, it might look very different to life 'as we know it', but Arik Kershenbaum makes a persuasive and entertaining case that we needn't be completely in the dark. There are some rules that all beings with a claim to be alive must observe, and for which life on our planet can serve as a guide. This is an eye-opening and, above all, a hopeful view of what - or who - might be out there in the cosmos -- Philip Ball, author of Nature's Patterns Evolutionary theory helps us explain patterns in the past, and combined with a rich understanding of natural history and biodiversity, predict what might be discovered in the future. Arik Kershenbaum takes us on a joyous voyage of animal diversity and illustrates the singular importance of natural selection in explaining life - here on Earth - and what will likely be discovered throughout the galaxy. A stimulating read! -- Daniel T. Blumstein, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Los Angeles This is no mere frivolous exercise in arm-waving (or tentacle-waving) and baseless speculation. Instead, what emerges is a fascinating plunge into the deep-time history of life on Earth and animal evolution in all its glorious diversity . . . To comprehend the alien is to know thyself * The Times * The book crawls with curious facts . . . [Kershenbaum] is fascinating on how aliens might communicate -- James McConnachie * The Sunday Times * A wonderful mix of science-based speculation and entertaining whimsy -- David P. Barash * Wall Street Journal * Entertaining . . . the real joy springs from Kershenbaum's exploration of the laws of biology that have shaped the bizarre variety of living creatures on our own world - and will do so on any other -- Stephen Bleach * The Times/Sunday Times, Science Books of the Year * Taking the growing body of information about other planets, applying the laws of biology, principles of chemistry, and his knowledge of Earth's history, Kershenbaum presents the possibilities for alien creatures with confidence * BBC Science Focus magazine, 15 of the best space and astronomy books 2020 * In this enjoyable and informative book, Cambridge zoologist Kershenbaum argues that because the theory of natural selection and the laws of biology are universal, they can be applied to habitats other than Earth to understand how complex life may evolve in those places . . . The author successfully conveys tricky subjects without sacrificing clarity or letting his narrative get buried in technical discussions, and he writes with an enthusiasm that is infectious . . . This is a fun, rewarding journey, and by the end, his analysis teaches readers as much about life on Earth as it does elsewhere. A fresh take on an always fascinating subject * Kirkus *

Author Biography

Dr Arik Kershenbaum is a zoologist, College Lecturer, and Fellow at Girton College, University of Cambridge. He has researched animal vocal communication for the past ten years in Europe, Israel and the United States and has published more than twenty academic publications on the topic. He is also a member of the international board of advisors for, a think tank on the topic of Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. This is his first trade book.