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.
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