The Soul of an Octopus - Chapters 3 & 4 Summary

In chapter three, we are introduced to a new baby octopus at the New England Aquarium named Kali. Kali is one of the first octopuses at the aquarium to maintain specific coloring, in her case a white spot on her head. The coloring of an octopus is thought to be used for not only camouflage, but also potentially to express the emotional state of an octopus. As the author engages with Kali, we are introduced to some of the history of how the interactions between humans and sea creatures have changed at the New England Aquarium over time. The well-being of the sea creatures at the aquarium requires not only complex housing, but also an ability to more safely interact with the sea creatures for routine care. Over time, volunteers and staff have worked to train many of the sea creatures and in the process changed the, usually more negative, perceptions of many of the different species. The human and sea creature interaction ties us back to animal intelligence. Many species, including humans, are thought to have developed intelligence as a mechanism to manage complex social interactions. The intelligence of an octopus is believed to have a different source, the lack of a shell. Many sea creatures have a shell as a form of protection and without one the octopus has had to become more creative in order to survive the dangers presented by the many species in its environment.

As the book continues, Octavia the adult female octopus lays her eggs. The laying of her eggs marks the end of her life as female octopuses will starve themselves while caring for their eggs. Female octopuses are meticulous mothers, and for many aquarium guests this information is an important way to connect with an invertebrate like Octavia. While caring for her eggs, Octavia displays a range of behaviors. Octopuses and humans have a similar set of hormones including cephalotocin the octopus equivalent of oxytocin. The unique connection many people feel for animals is highlighted in this chapter, as the author becomes closer with many of the other volunteers at the aquarium. Due to her newfound love for octopuses and a desire to see them in the wild, Mrs. Montgomery decides to learn to scuba dive while the aquarium undergoes construction.

Andi DeRogatis is a graduate student at UC Davis in the animal biology graduate group. She is currently studying how the avian immune system is influenced by the process of molt. She loves all things birds and is passionate about getting others excited about birds as well! You can follow her on Twitter @andiderogatis.

Lindsey Mooney is a graduate student in the UC Davis Psychology Department. You can follow her on Twitter @Linz_Mooney.

For more content from the UC Davis science communication group "Science Says", follow us on Twitter @SciSays.

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