"Kissing" Across the Animal Kingdom

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | December 28, 2010 2:57 pm

I’ve been accepting questions about The Science of Kissing and bufferyourlife has asked:

hey! I was reading DISCOVER magazine, december issue I think, and they were explaining how humans were actually the only known species to kiss when they showed feelings from one another… and that the only other species that somehow had a similar behavior were apes but they kissed only as excitement and they did not used tongue, it was just a pressed kiss… so are we the only animals that kiss passionately in order to show feelings such as love or are there other animals that also do such a thing? Thanks!

It’s a terrific question and I’m glad you brought up that DISCOVER piece because I wrote it.

When it comes to describing similar behaviors across the animal kingdom, scientists have to be very careful. We cannot assume that other species experience the same emotions as we do. So instead of words like “love,” behaviorists use phrases like “mate choice” or “selective proceptivity.”

In Chapter 2 of The Science of Kissing, I go into detail describing how “kissing-like behaviors” can serve a variety of purposes from affection to feeding to conflict depending on the species and individuals involved. More in the book…

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books, Culture

Comments (1)

  1. Chris Mooney

    You in the Post me in the LA Times. Not a bad Sunday for the Intersection.

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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.

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