An author from Oxford has released a new book exploring the real life science behind 2,500 year old animal fables.

In Aesop’s Animals: The Science Behind the Fables, Dr Jo Wimpenny turns a critical eye to a number of famous fables credited to Aesop, a Greek storyteller.

Aesop is the source of such famous tales as the Tortoise and the Hare and The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.

In her book she asks if there is any scientific truth to the portrayal of Aesop’s animal characters. Are wolves deceptive villains? Are crows insightful geniuses? And could a tortoise really beat a hare in a race?

Dr Wimpenny, a zoologist and science writer, has a background in animal behaviour and was inspired to write the book after 2009 research replicated crow behaviour seen in Aesop’s tale The Crow and the Pitcher.

She said: “I am trying to use the book to showcase some of the most incredible scientific discoveries of what animals do.

“We only need to look at recent documentaries like Chris Packham’s Animal Einsteins and David Attenborough’s series to know that the public love seeing what animals do and learning more about why they do what they do.

“I think people will find it interesting to be reminded of these fables and maybe to find themselves thinking about their preconceptions of what animals do and knowing the truth of them.”

Oxford Mail: Dr Jo Wimpenny new book tries to sort fact from fiction (Bloomsbury)Dr Jo Wimpenny new book tries to sort fact from fiction (Bloomsbury)

Dr Wimpenny’s book brings the fables into the modern age by introducing the latest scientific research on animal behaviour, as well as interviews with leading behavioural ecologists and researchers.

Each chapter focuses on a different fable and topic, including future planning, tool use, self-recognition, cooperation and deception.

At the end of each chapter, the Dr Wimpenny pulls together all the evidence to assess whether Aesop’s portrayal of the animals is based in fact or fiction, suggesting alternative characters where the science falls short.

On September 9, Dr Wimpenny is hosting a free talk on the book at the Museum University of Natural History.

The book is available to purchase now.