cover image Many Things Under a Rock: The Mysteries of Octopuses

Many Things Under a Rock: The Mysteries of Octopuses

David Scheel, illus. by Laurel “Yoyo” Scheel. Norton, $28.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-324-02069-1

Marine biologist Scheel debuts with a fascinating exploration of how octopuses experience their world. Drawing on research he’s conducted in locales from Hawaii to Alaska, Scheel dives into the science of how the cephalopods think about and sense the world around them. Discussing evidence that octopuses have a sense of self, he observes that octopuses will eat the severed arms of others, but not their own. Scheel notes that two-thirds of an octopus’s neurons reside in its arms rather than its brain and that scientists are still sorting out how much autonomy the arms have; one study found that “octopus arm tips retreat from light, whether or not the eyes can see it,” suggesting that the creatures’ brains and arms “are not perfectly integrated.” He also relates anecdotes from his career studying octopuses in the wild and in labs, telling of a troublesome octopus who squirted water at researchers from its tank and describing how octopuses’ ability to change colors complicated his efforts to identify species while surveying the Alaskan octopus population. The detailed descriptions of octopus behavior and stimulating research on their perceptive faculties makes for a complex portrait of a surprising animal. Fans of the BBC’s Blue Planet should seek this out. (June)