The Internet of Animals

Discovering the Collective Intelligence of Life on Earth

Table of contents

  1. From the Prairie to Space and Back
  2. The Bird Information Highway
  3. A Little Ovenbird Makes Us Think Again
  4. The Early Days of Tracking
  5. Walking Like a Cowboy
  6. Our Sputnik Moment
  7. Rats! Still So Much to Learn
  8. The Long March to ICARUS
  9. Switching Back to Europe
  10. Who's in Charge?
  11. The ICARUS Design Starts
  12. Tagging Animals in the Field
  13. Getting Closer to Launch
  14. Finally, We Have Liftoff
  15. The Rocky Road of Tag Development
  16. All Systems Go—or Not
  17. Animals at Play
  18. Putin Invades Ukraine
  19. Cosmic Ideas from Aristotle to Humboldt
  20. Berta, the Earthquake Cow
  21. The Internet of Animals


An illuminating account of animal migration and the stunning new science that reveals the source of their infinite, untapped knowledge.

What do animals know that we don’t? Why do rats flee before an earthquake and birds before a hurricane? In The Internet of Animals, renowned scientist Martin Wikelski convincingly argues that animals possess a unique “sixth sense” that humans are only beginning to grasp …

All we need to do is give animals a voice and our perception of the world could change forever. That’s what author Martin Wikelski and his team of scientists believe and this book shares their story for the first time. As they tag animals around the world with miniscule tracking devices, they link their movements to a space station that taps into the ‘internet of animals’: an astonishing network of information made up of thousands of animals communicating with each other and their environments. Called the International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space, or ICARUS, this phenomenal project is poised to change our world.

Down on the ground, Wikelski describes animals’ sixth sense first-hand. On Africa’s Serengeti plains, he watches columns of migrating wildebeests and zebras stretching 50 miles long, with each animal knowing the quality of grass consumed at the front of the line—even those straggling behind. In South America, Flamingoes head south just when they sense the weather changing thousands of miles away in the Andes. And in Angola, a flock of cuckoos meet only to separate—one going to the UK, one to Western Russia, and the other to Mongola—based on unique information about each destination.

As Wikelski shares his deep love of animals and what they can tell us, he describes each group’s unique culture. Yes, animals have culture, just like humans. Their migratory rhythms are not triggered by genes encoded in their DNA but by elaborate cultures that are long established. What does this mean for us? It means that, by paying attention to animal cultures, we can learn more about our environments. We can better prepare for natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes. Most of all, we can learn to live alongside animals in harmony for the betterment of our future, their future, and the future of the planet.


"[A] fascinating personal account of how science unfolds....Wikelski is...a great storyteller....[T]he book is also filled with charming anecdotes about animals and their underappreciated intelligence....Learning [what ICARUS might reveal] could both open our eyes to the incredible hidden lives of our animal neighbors and move us to better protect the planet that sustains us all."
—Hillary Rosner, Undark

"[A] bonkers, delightful read....[Wikelski's] vision of creating a way for animals to communicate what they are remains a vital, galvanizing example of how human ingenuity and persistence can make a difference in how we understand the world around us."

"[An] energetic memoir ... Wikelski’s speculation that tracking animals capable of sensing natural disasters could warn humans about impending volcanic activity or tsunamis intrigues. It’s an awe-inspiring look at the scientific process and the wonders of nature."
Publishers Weekly

"Wikelski has gotten to know more individual animals than anyone in history—in this book he helps those animals tell us their most important stories."
—Roland Kays, NC Museum of Natural Sciences and NC State University

The Internet of Animals is an eloquent bird's-eye view of life on Earth. Martin Wikelski, a visionary biologist, has spent his career at the razor edge of technology and animal behavior. His adventurous research poses an ultimate question: What can we learn from the collective wisdom of all living things? Wikelski's narrative is fascinating and refreshingly optimistic. I read this book in a happy nanosecond, and will ponder it for a lifetime.
—Noah Stryker, author of Birding Without Borders

"Wikelski's account of pioneering one of the most revolutionary approaches ever to tracking wild creatures is as uplifting as it is fascinating."
—Scott Weidensaul, author of A World on the Wing

"In The Internet of Animals, Martin Wikelski traces the trials and triumphs of a grand idea: tracking the migrations and everyday movements of multiple species from space. But while the ICARUS project may rely on satellites, its stars are the earthbound creatures that come alive in Wikelski’s wonderful stories, drawn from decades of dedicated fieldwork. At its heart, this book is a loving ode to science itself, told with wit and wonder."
—Thor Hanson, author of Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid

"Wildlife is in steep decline on every continent. New tools like the marvels described in this book will help, and so will a new consciousness those tools might create: the real sense of what an honor and privilege it is to share our planet with the wondrous rest of creation.”
—Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

“An accessible, exciting story full of cutting-edge science brought to life through personal experience focusing on the author’s central question: how can we best understand and protect the network of life on this planet with all its diversity and complexity?”
—Klaus Hahlbrock, former vice president of the Max Planck Society and author of Feeding the Planet: Environmental Protection through Sustainable Agriculture

“Martin’s story has the immediacy of an engaging private conversation. Enriched with enchanting vignettes of animal behavior, the book concludes with an optimistic, if idealistic, vision of our future. It is compelling, deeply thoughtful reading that leaves the reader with much to ponder. We strongly recommended the book to all those who seek a better world that respects and learns from nature.”
—Peter and Rosemary Grant, authors of 40 Years of Evolution: Darwin’s Finches on Daphne Major Island