9781324007227 198

Dancing Cockatoos and the Dead Man Test

How Behavior Evolves and Why It Matters

9 September 2022

Marlene Zuk (Author)


A lively exploration of animal behaviour in all its glorious complexity, from tiny wasps to lumbering elephants—and humans

It’s time to leave behind the tired nature-versus-nurture debate. In Dancing Cockatoos and the Dead Man Test , Marlene Zuk asks a more fascinating question: How does behaviour evolve, and how is that process similar—and different—in people and animals?

Drawing from a wealth of research, including her own on insects, she explores how genes and the environment work together to produce cockatoos that dance to rock music and ants that heal their injured companions. She follows the different paths cats and dogs took to living with humans and asks whether bees are domestic animals. In exploring intelligence, mating behaviour and fighting disease, Zuk turns to smart spiders, silent crickets and crafty crows. She shows how neither our behaviour nor that of other animals is dictated solely by genes, and that animal behaviour can be remarkably similar to human behaviour—and wonderfully complicated in its own right.


"This book is a joy—a provocative, highly entertaining exploration of the roots of our behavior. Zuk dispels the murk and misconceptions about how our sex roles, language, intelligence, even our mental illness came to be, offering a fresh and invigorating view of animal behavior..." — Jennifer Ackerman, The New York Times bestselling author of The Genius of Birds

"With authority, clarity, and wit, the author guides readers on a revelatory journey into the connected nature of behavior across the tree of life." — Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, coauthor of Zoobiquity and Wildhood

"...Marlene Zuk uses a light touch to probe heavy questions: What is behavior? How is it related to intelligence? Does domestication make one dumb? The book, sparkling with humor and curiosity, is a pleasure from start to finish." — Kim Todd, author of Sparrow

Also By: Marlene Zuk View all by author...



165 x 244 mm • 352 pages


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