02 March, 2016

The soul of an octopus : a surprising exploration into the wonder of consciousness by Sy Montgomery

You don't need to go to deep outer space to find alien intelligence, it is right here just a few kilometres away in the sea.

Octopuses are so different from us, they inhabit a realm that is perilous to us, they are asocial and short-lived, they can change shape, colour and pattern in a twinkling, they are even on the other side of the very basic vertebrate/invertebrate divide.  Yet they think. They are very curious, they can solve puzzles and play.

An octopus will take a fish and pass it along a tentacle, from taste-sensitive sucker to sucker before popping it into its beak.  It could munch on the fish right away, but like us licking an ice-cream instead of just chomping on it the octopus prefers to savour the taste of the fish.

Keen volunteers visit octopus in an aquarium.... the several octopuses seem to enjoy the encounters as much as the people, reaching up out of their tanks to hold and explore the skin of humans who have their hands plunged into cold seawater. They recognise friends. It seems a mystical, enjoyable experience.

Octopuses think, do they also contemplate?

Title: The soul of an octopus
Author: Sy Montgomery

Also available as an eBook

Reviewed by Christine O, Takapuna Library.

Christine O has worked in North Shore libraries for over 20 years. She likes her fiction to be credible and her nonfiction to be accessible.

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