Becoming a Tiger: How Baby Animals Learn to Live in the Wild

Becoming a Tiger: How Baby Animals Learn to Live in the Wild

by Susan McCarthy
     
 

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From the co–author of the New York Times bestseller When Elephants Weep comes a book that uses true stories backed by scientific research to explore the way young animals discover their worlds and learn how to survive.

How does a baby animal figure out how to get around in the world? How much of what animals know is instinctive, and how much

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Overview

From the co–author of the New York Times bestseller When Elephants Weep comes a book that uses true stories backed by scientific research to explore the way young animals discover their worlds and learn how to survive.

How does a baby animal figure out how to get around in the world? How much of what animals know is instinctive, and how much must they learn?

In Becoming a Tiger, bestselling author Susan McCarthy addresses these intriguing matters, presenting fascinating and funny examples of animal behaviour in the laboratory and in the wild. McCarthy shows us how baby animals transform themselves from clueless kittens, clumsy cubs, or scrawny chicks into efficient predators, successful foragers, or deft nest–builders. From geese to mice, dolphins to orang–utans, bats to (of course) tigers, McCarthy's warm, amusing, and insightful examinations of animal life and developments provides a surprising window into the mental worlds of our fine fuzzy, furred, finned, and feathered friends.

oReaders will be fascinated by a close look at animal intelligence, learning, and family life.

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Editorial Reviews

Dawn Prince-Hughes
“BECOMING A TIGER takes a fascinating area of exploration ... and brings it to life in all its richness.”
Publishers Weekly
Although all animals come into the world with certain innate behaviors, such as sneezing, most life skills do need to be learned, says McCarthy, even things as simple as cramming fingers into one's mouth. Take Cody, an eight-week-old orangutan: "He wanted to put his fingers in his mouth and suck on them, but it was hard to get them to the right place," writes McCarthy, coauthor of the bestselling When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Life of Animals. After "waving his hand around, jamming it in his ear, [and] making expectant sucking noises with his mouth," he seemed confused. Baby animals like Cody, McCarthy explains, learn in a variety of ways, like trial and error, copying adults and conditioning. She divides the book into broad categories, such as finding food ("How to Make a Living"), avoiding predators ("How Not to Be Eaten") and communicating ("How to Get Your Point Across"), and then uses hundreds of examples gleaned from scientific journals, books and wildlife rehabilitators who care for orphaned animals to show how animals learn. McCarthy writes clearly and her penchant for humor (she explains early on that imprinting "will be discussed in scandalous detail later") makes the book an easy read, both for students of learning and those who can't get enough of television's Animal Planet. Agent, Stuart Krichevsky. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Having observed the activities of animal trainers, behavior experts, and their animal subjects some quite famous McCarthy (coauthor, When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals) aims to show how those animals develop and mature. How, for instance, do chicks become expert nest-builders and tiger cubs formidable predators? She presents her findings in brief summaries, grouped into chapters on feeding, communication, breeding, and other functions. While illustrating the successes and failures of animal parents, zookeepers, and wildlife rehabilitators in rearing young animals to adulthood, she includes humorous asides and idiomatic headings, invoking anthropomorphic comparisons to dating, grocery shopping, and domestic life. Although many of the observations on animal learning fascinate, the funny comments and fragmented structure make this volume read more like a newspaper column than a science book. The author's approach strains credibility at times, as when she declares that a particular animal "realized" or "concluded" something when, technically, that would be impossible to determine. Long on examples but short on unifying themes or conclusions, this book is appropriate for larger public libraries that serve readers who are interested in animal behavior but want to avoid scientific jargon in favor of a lighter treatment of the subject. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/04.] Alvin Hutchinson, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-McCarthy synthesizes a great deal of research in this entertaining overview. Many of the same cases turn up again and again as she examines such topics as whether or not animals can learn language, how they imprint on their parents, and how predators learn to hunt while prey learns to avoid being eaten. Her writing is straightforward and anecdotal, but it is supported by copious notes and an extensive bibliography. The studies include not only creatures observed in the wild, but also those raised by wildlife rehabilitators and by humans as pets. This fascinating book is sure to pique the interest of science students and animal lovers.-Susan Salpini, TASIS-The American School in England Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Science journalist McCarthy (co-author, When Elephants Weep, 1995) details the interplay between nature and nurture, instinct and learning, in her broad, synthesizing overview of the way animals learn to be animals. Often tinged with humor ("This species of cuckoo has refined its criminality to a remarkable extent, at least in southern Spain") and written with an eye for clarity, the text starts with the big picture, asking whether the system of learning is open or closed, and then zeroes in on the particulars, both demonstrable and theoretical. McCarthy introduces the vehicles by which animals go about making their way in the world: social learning and facilitation, observation, imitation, accustomization, trial and error, socialization, habituation, practice, emulation, Pavlovian and Skinnerian conditioning, the role of play. What most interests her is what happens when the complexity of the environment demands more than what can be reliably supplied by the genome. How does an otter know to dry off rather than succumb to hypothermia? What are the consequences of cross-fostering, as when a rabbit is raised in the company of dogs? A heavy compendium of animal-learning anecdotes buttresses the theories: yes, McCarthy explains how a tiger becomes a tiger, but she also wonders: What about those frillfin gobies? The author underscores the lengths to which scientists go. "Researchers tried hard to instill fear of flowers in monkeys, using the same techniques that had instilled fear of snakes," she writes, "and they couldn't do it." But who would cast a stone at them for failure? What makes this a pleasure to read is the unadulterated delight McCarthy takes in her research, from the "ravenEinstein" of Bernd Heinrich to her fellow humans, great innovators because they are "remarkably ill-equipped with innate technologies." A prodigious summation of accepted and conjectural animal-learning capabilities, agreeably witty and bell-clear, though it includes all the exceptions and complications. Agent: Stuart Krichevsky/Stuart Krichevsky Agency

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060934842
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
08/09/2005
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
919,241
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.97(d)

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