The Soul of an Octopus - Chapters 5 & 6 Summary

To kick off chapter 5, Montgomery details the struggles of her scuba certification. She notes that her joy of being underwater is detrimental because she can’t stop smiling and allowing water into her regulator. She overcomes several challenges (eardrum pressure, trouble with the regulator, becoming certified in the New England cold) in order to make it to her first official dive in Cozumel. Their first dive is a drift dive and Montgomery actualizes her dream. She and her fellow divers come face to face with an octopus in its natural habitat for the first time, rather than in an aquarium. The experience of being underwater is described as dream-like and akin to an altered but equally valid reality. Unfortunately, due to trouble equalizing her ears, Montgomery has to sit out two dives leading up to a night dive. During the day dive, lots of divers get lost so at night they take extra precautions and are rewarded: they spot an octopus, and then another, and then another! During the night dive, Sy spots 4 octopuses all together!


After her expedition to Cozumel, Montgomery returns to the aquarium to find Kali almost the size of Octavia, and becoming frustrated with her tight living quarters. She discussed the biological mechanisms octopuses are able to control and exert, particularly in relation to the power of octopus ink to alter the neurochemistry of fish and other sea creatures. She also detailed the uniqueness of each octopus arm by introducing research on favored arms or bold versus shy arms. The arms of an octopus may work independently of the brain or even be partially ‘brain’ themselves. Soon after returning from Cozumel, and with construction underway at the aquarium, Montgomery gets to observe and assist the team moving Kali to a bigger tank! Rather than being nervous or afraid, Kali is thrilled for a new world to explore. However, the tank is not perfect, and Bill is anxious about its effectiveness at containing Kali. Such concerns are valid, unfortunately, because the next morning Kali is found escaped and dies soon after. The octopus lover group at the aquarium mourns her life but recognizes that the octopus is extremely intelligent and inquisitive and Kali was insistent on exploring her world, at any cost.

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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