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INSPIRE #331: The Secret Lives of Fish!

Jonathan Balcome shares the incredible lives & scientifically proven intelligence of fish & why it matters!

Listen to the podcast below!




If you’ve ever wondered what the lives of underwater brethren, the fish are like, then do we have the holy mackerel show for you.

Today we’ll be talking with Jonathan Balcombe, director of animal sentience at the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy and the author of four books, including Second Nature, Pleasurable Kingdom, and What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins, a fascinating book I found incredibly hard to put down.

Today we’ll be talking about the inner lives of our underwater cousins, what a fish knows, thinks, feels, and what’s life really like, a few feet, to many fathoms below the sea.

That plus we’ll talk about why Nemo’s dad Marlin, may have really been Marlette, fish and optical illusions, mucus and jolts, carp and Mozart, democracy and robo-fish, ebay rankings for cleaner fish, the super-dad of the sea world, the animal Einstein Olympics, what Yao Ming, Jackie Chan and David Beckham have in common, and why male bulldogs may just want to shorten their EOD’s!

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Jonathan Balcombe was born in England, raised in New Zealand and Canada, and has lived in the United States since 1987.

He has three biology degrees, including a PhD in ethology (the study of animal behavior) from the University of Tennessee, where he studied communication in bats. He has published over 50 scientific papers on animal behavior and animal protection.

Formerly Department Chair for Animal Studies with the Humane Society University, and Senior Research Scientist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Jonathan is currently Director of Animal Sentience with the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, in Washington, DC.

In his spare time Jonathan enjoys biking, baking, birdwatching, piano, painting, and trying to understand the squirrels on his deck.


Jonathan Balcome Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter  | YouTube

Key Topics:

  • What happened to Jonathan Balcombe at 8 years old
  • What was the goldfish incident
  • Why we’ve missed the boat on fishes
  • How there are fish that can literally fly
  • Why there have been fish over 200 million years ago that had umbilical cords
  • David Attenborough announcer had the fish named him
  • What is the menhaden?
  • What we can learn about flounder and other flat fish?
  • What happens to flounder in puberty
  • What can swordfish do with their eyes
  • What’s the Abyss and how much life is there?
  • What can sharks do with their eyes to see in the dark
  • Walking sharks?
  • Rose lipped bat fish?
  • What can we learn from fish and optical illusions?
  • How can fish hear?
  • What kind of music do Koi like?
  • Why fish grow faster with music, particularly Mozart
  • What is scary stuff from fish?
  • What’s a fish’s sense of taste like?
  • How fish navigate via the sun, and magnetism
  • What are cleaner fishes?
  • What can we learn about cooperation from groupers and moray eels.
  • What is a robofish?
  • What can we learn from Lauri Cook about Beta-Fish and what’s the beta-fish myth? (aka Siamese Fighting Fish)
  • How do fish use tools?
  • Can Tiger Fish catch birds?
  • Who is Christina Zenato and what does she do with sharks?
  • What can we learn about changing sex and Nemo
  • How a puffer fish create mandalas
  • Why is the seahorse the super-dad?
  • What Carl Safina author of Beyond Words found with trawlers and Green Peace in the Arctic
  • What do trawlers do?
  • What happens when fishing shrimp aka shrimping
  • What is by-catch
  • Why is shrimping so harmful to the environment
  • Why is eating tuna like eating tigers?
  • What does Yao Min, Jackie Chan and David Beckham have to do with shark fins?
  • What a Fish Knows is now a New York Times best-seller, visit and – come join his newsletter!

Related Podcasts:

INSPIRE #317: What Animals Think & Feel and What We Can Learn from Them! (Carl Safina, PhD, “Beyond Words”)

INSPIRE #254: How Animals Inspire, Heal & Transform Our Lives! (Dr. Bernie Siegel – Love, Animals & Miracles)


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