… the amazing, alien creatures that live in the ocean? While many people are afraid of octopuses, Sy Montgomery shows us their beauty and intelligence in The Soul of an Octopus. She got to know several of these incredible animals, forming close bonds both with them and with the staff and volunteers at the New England Aquarium.
Octopuses are very different from humans. Their boneless bodies can squeeze into and through incredibly small spaces. Their skin is covered in specialized cells that allow them to change color very quickly for camouflage, warning off other animals and even communication. The suction cups on their arms are sensitive to chemicals, so they can taste whatever they touch. However, octopuses are also intelligent, creative and talented at solving puzzles – traits that are very familiar to humans.
These characteristics make them simultaneously very alien and very relatable to us, allowing octopuses to form connections with humans, recognizing them by both sight and touch. An octopus who hides from strangers will come to the surface of its tank when someone it knows approaches, even spending time touching and interacting with familiar people while eating. It may also treat different people differently – touching one more gently and tugging at another’s arms, or dousing certain people with water. They are fascinating animals, and Sy Montgomery does an excellent job of showing us more about their world.
Reviewed by Fran (staff)