Octopus (Reaktion Books - Animal)

Octopus (Reaktion Books - Animal)

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 1780231776

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

 Our relationship to the octopus dates back to prehistory, when the eight-armed animal was depicted on vases and found in stone carvings from ancient Greece. Now we appreciate them for their abilities as escape artists, with sophisticated camouflage systems and ink jets—as well as their roles in tasty dishes from many cuisines. Octopuses are also among the most intelligent invertebrates in the world, with mental capacity comparable to that of a dog. In this heavily illustrated book, Richard Schweid details this animal’s remarkable natural history and its multifaceted relationship with humans.

Schweid describes the octopus’s intelligence, defense mechanisms, and short lifespan. He shows how some people have considered octopuses as nothing more than a meal and examines their role in the modern global fish and seafood industry. Other cultures, he reveals, see them as erotic totems or symbols of the darkest evils, and he discusses the difficulties people face when trying to keep them as pets—they are able to use their problem-solving skills, mobility, and boneless body to escape seemingly secure tanks. A fascinating glimpse into the extraordinary world of these popular creatures, Octopus will immerse readers in its amazing undersea world.

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that every octopus has a personality. In 1993 Anderson, the director of the Seattle Aquarium, teamed up with Mather, a professor of psychology and neuroscience from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. Anderson spent 31 years at the Seattle Aquarium before retiring in 2009. The son of a sea captain, he grew up near the ocean and became an avid scuba diver. Over the course of his tenure at the aquarium, he became fascinated by the natural history, behaviour and aquarium husbandry of

people could have provided inadvertent cues to their performance.’17 By 1997 Boal had finished her PhD and joined the faculty at Millersville University as a professor of animal behaviour and marine biology. She decided to concentrate on the kinds of learning that octopuses would require in their lives and began to study the ways in which spatial learning is important to them. What she concluded was that octopuses employ a type of learning called conditional discrimination in which animals must

is occupied by marine fish with less exacting biological requirements than an octopus. Roland Anderson and Jennifer Mather, in their book Octopus, suggest the colourful damselfish.4 The initial step, whatever species is to be kept, is obtaining a steady supply of salt water. Unpolluted fresh water can be transformed for the aquarium by adding sea salt, according to Anderson and Mather, which is available at pet shops. The water needs to have a pH of about 8.2. They recommend using up to three

of months, and he may even pass a second spermataphore to another female, but it’s a short-lived healthiness. Soon he stops hunting, eating only what passes close enough for him not to be able to ignore it, and loses weight rapidly. He spends most of his time exposed, outside his den. Worse, he gradually loses coordination and camouflage ability, and his skin develops lesions. As an octopus loses weight its eyes remain the same size, so they seem to bulge out in horror at what lies just ahead.

Octopus, p. 38. 13  Frank W. Lane, Kingdom of the Octopus (New York, 1960), p. 77. 14  Graziano Fiorito, interview with the author, March 2010. 15  Lincoln Stoller, interview with Jerome Lettvin, May 2007, at www.tengerresearch.com. 16  Roy Caldwell, ‘What Makes Blue-rings So Deadly? Blue-ringed Octopus have Tetrodotoxin’, www.thecephalopodpage.org, accessed 31 October 2012. 17  Carolyn Barry, ‘All Octopuses are Venomous, Study Says’, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/news, 17 April 2009.

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