'Jackie Higgins’s lyrical, literate style will charm you while her book stuns your imagination with strange, other-worldly truths' Richard Dawkins
Sentient assembles a menagerie of zoological creatures – from land, air, sea and all four corners of the globe – to understand what it means to be human. Through their eyes, ears, skins, tongues and noses, the furred, finned and feathered reveal how we sense and make sense of the world, as well as the untold scientific revolution stirring in the field of human perception.
The harlequin mantis shrimp can throw a punch that can fracture aquarium walls but, more importantly, it has the ability to see a vast range of colours. The ears of the great grey owl have such unparalleled range and sensitivity that they can hear twenty decibels lower than the human ear. The star-nosed mole barely fills a human hand, seldom ventures above ground and poses little threat unless you are an earthworm, but its miraculous nose allows it to catch those worms at astonishing speed – as little as one hundred and twenty milliseconds. Here, too, we meet the four-eyed spookfish and its dark vision; the vampire bat and its remarkable powers of touch; the bloodhound and its hundreds of millions of scent receptors, as well as the bar-tailed godwit, the common octopus, giant peacocks, cheetahs and golden orb-weaving spiders. Each of these extraordinary creatures illustrates the sensory powers that lie dormant within us.
In this captivating book, Jackie Higgins explores this evolutionary heritage and, in doing so, enables us to subconsciously engage with the world in ways we never knew possible.
The first rule of popular science is to reveal the wonder and mystery of the world. For that reason, Sentient, written by photographer and wildlife film-maker Jackie Higgins, is my personal pick of the year.
Simon Ings, New Scientist Best Books of the Year
Higgins makes popular science accessible – Sentient is a dizzying display of the evolutionary ingenuity not only of lifeforms, but also of zoologists, neuroscientists and biologists who have mapped new frontiers of knowledge. You may finish reading it and wish that humans could use that intelligence to stop the destruction of the habitats all of us live in.
Saskia Baron, Observer
Jackie Higgins’s eye-opening account of the often bizarre or superhuman sensory systems of other animals, from Hades-dwellers to Arctic owls.
Steven Poole, Telegraph Best New Science Books