Hedonic ethology – the New York Times exults over the Exultant Ark

by Bernard De Koven on August 2, 2011

Two ring-tailed lemurs, perhaps a pair, perhaps just two guys out to catch a few rays, sit side by side tilted back as if in beach chairs, their white bellies exposed, knees apart, feet splayed to catch every last drop of the Madagascar sun. All they need are cigars to complete the picture.

There’s a perfectly good evolutionary explanation for this posture. Scientists use the term “behavioral thermoregulation” to describe how an animal maintains a core body temperature. But as the animal behaviorist Jonathan Balcombe points out in his exuberant look at animal pleasure, “The Exultant Ark,” they are also clearly enjoying themselves. A scientist through and through, Dr. Balcombe can’t help giving the study of animal pleasure a properly scientific name: hedonic ethology.

And so begins Katherine Houton’s excellent review of The Exultant Ark in the New York Times.
We have been closely following the success of Balcombe’s inspired look at the emotional lives of animals, and we are rejoicing almost as much as Dr. Balcombe in the recognition that his work is finally receiving (see also this review in the Guardian).
You’ll also find an excellent slide show of some of the moving images from The Exultant Ark in the Times article and embedded in the Guardian.
Read, observe, celebrate the community of joy.

A Playful Path photoA playful path is the shortest road to happiness.
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