Octopus!: The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea

Front Cover
Current, 2013 - Science - 238 pages

No one understands the octopus. With eight arms, three hearts, camouflaging skin, and a disarmingly sentient look behind its highly evolved eyes, how could it appear anything but utterly alien?

Octopuses have been captivating humans for as long as we have been catching them. Many cultures have octopus-centric creation myths, art, and, of course, cuisine. For all of our ancient fascination and millions of dollars' worth of modern research, however, we still have not been able to get a firm grasp on these enigmatic creatures.

Now, Katherine Harmon Courage, a veteran journalist and contributing editor for Scientific American, dives into the mystifying underwater world of the octopus. She reports from around the globe of her adventures in Spain, Greece, and even Brooklyn, inviting us to experience the scientific discoveries and deep cultural ties that connect us to the octopus. You'll discover-

  • The oldest known fossilized octopus is estimated to have lived 296 million years ago even before the first dinosaurs emerged.
  • Government agencies are funding research labs around the world to re-create the octopus's naturally occurring camouflage techniques.
  • About two thirds of an octopus's brain capacity is spread throughout its eight arms, meaning each one literally has a mind of its own.
  • Octopuses have aced numerous intelligence tests, including opening childproof bottles, solving mazes, and even recognizing individual people.
  • The octopus can change colors and textures within milliseconds to vanish against its background yet we have no evidence that it can see in color.

Courage deftly interweaves personal narrative with interviews with leading octopus experts. The result is an entertaining yet scientifically grounded exploration of the octopus and its infinitely complex world.

Praise for Octopus!

'The octopus is like an alternate experiment in intelligent life sophisticated, alluring, and wholly alien. In her fresh, deeply reported book, Katherine Harmon Courage makes this creatures a little less mysterious, but no less marvellous.' Carl Zimmer, author of A Planet of Virusesand The Tangled Bank- An Introduction to Evolution

'What is it like to be an octopus? We need to imagine that our arms, all eight of them, can think and that our skin can see. Despite our obvious trouble understanding this invertebrate, no one doubts its intellect. A delightful book about a fascinating creature!' Frans De Waal, author of The Bonobo and the Atheist

'According to this book, octopuses can sprout temporary horns. Horns! Seriously, you need to read this book.' Will Tracy, editor in chief, The Onion

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User Review  - DarthDeverell - LibraryThing

Katherine Harmon Courage begins her discussion in Octopus!: The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea with a necessary clarification on nomenclature: "The ancient Greeks christened the animal októpous ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Xandylion - LibraryThing

As a person who finds eating octopuses upsetting (because I like them so much), I was hoping for a book about their lives and their biology, their environment. Once I realized that the author was ... Read full review

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About the author (2013)

Katherine Harmon Courage is an award-winning freelance writer and contributing editor for Scientific American. Her work covers health, biology, food, the environment and general interest stories and has appeared in books, magazines, newspapers and web sites, including Gourmet, Nature and Scientific American. Read more on her website, www.katherineharmon.com and follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/katherineharmon.

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