Octopuses not Octopi, Please!

soul of an octopusFinalist for the 2015 National Book Award for Non-Fiction, Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus: a Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness has done a gargantuan favor for animal lovers and readers with her educational and remarkable book. You will never feel the same about the unusual octopus after you have finished reading this one. Making friends with the various octopus residents at the New England Aquarium compelled Montgomery to learn more about them. And learn she did, through a variety of research including interviewing octopus experts and taking part in scuba diving expeditions in French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico in search of octopuses in the wild.

You will be uplifted and moved to tears by her emotional attachments and  elegant descriptions in the passages about Athena, Karma and Kali, the octopuses (not octopi, the Latin plural form since the word octopus derives from the Greek). They will amaze you with their playfulness, intelligence, curiosity, sensitivity and their apparent ability to distinguish between the various people who visit them.

One might think it is a shame that these animals are captive in an aquarium, but, as I learned, they live longer than they would in the ocean, perhaps 3 to 4 years rather than the 1 to 2 years in the wild, they are well fed and cared for and they are great ambassadors and advocates for their species since they are among the most popular animals at many aquariums. They educate the public sometimes showing the wonder of their chameleon like ability to change color, their skill in changing shapes(perhaps they are the original shape shifters!) and their aptitude for threading their invertebrate bodies, often with a 6 ft or longer tentacle span through a one inch to 2 inch opening.

For those on the fence about catching wild animals for scientific or other purposes, make your own decision about the morality and whether the octopus garnering more fans will help in the long run toward continuation of the species while increasing our knowledge about this mysterious animal.

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