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

Penguin Pr. Mar. 2021. 368p. ISBN 9781984881960. $28. SCI
Zoologist Kershenbaum (Girton Coll., Univ.of Cambridge) speculates about the forms and behavior of alien animals, based on our knowledge of how life works and evolves on Earth. Since the basic laws of physics and chemistry are believed to apply throughout the universe, the author expects that the basic laws of biology—that life evolves through natural selection, that behavior is a response to a creature’s environment, and that form mostly follows function—do as well. Therefore, there are features of life on Earth that the author believes must exist elsewhere: movement, communication, intelligence, sociability, information, and language. Kershenbaum discusses how each of these evolved on Earth and what the similarities and differences might be on other planets with various atmospheres. Included are illustrations of some of Earth’s most fascinating animals, such as the Portuguese man o’ war, as well as insight into their behavior. Throughout, Kershenbaum also provides a thorough review of why life on Earth exists in all of its variety today. He includes a chapter on artificial intelligence and how an AI society might work, and concludes with a discussion of the meaning of “humanity.”
VERDICT A highly entertaining, science-based consideration of what alien life might be like.

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