The Soul of an Octopus - Chapters 7 & 8 Summary

Montgomery and Wilson mourn the loss of Kali, but with Octavia’s health still declining they order a new octopus. Together Sy and jellyfish researchers at the aquarium go to the airport to pick up the new octopus Karma around New Years. This octopus was caught in the wild and kept at a British Columbia facility until it was ready to be shipped. Upon arrival, the dirty water and shedded suckers are a dismal sight, but the team must go through a slow tank transfer process to avoid sending the new octopus into shock. With Karma’s attempt to bite someone and various other aquatic creatures behaving out of character, Sy discusses the concept of free will as it relates to humans and animals. The octopus, an incredibly capable and versatile creature, has so many choices at any given time. Even fruit flies do not behave systematically or randomly, they appear to make choices. For Valentine’s Day, Sy gets to observe two octopuses mating in Seattle for their annual “Octopus Blind Date.” When she returns to Boston, there are many life events for the octopus team and Karma seems to be acclimating well.

In the final chapter, aptly named ‘Consciousness’, Sy travels to Mooréa to accompany octopus researchers as they collect data on octopus hunting, eating habits, and personality. She wraps up her journey of octopus exploration beautifully. She actualizes her dream of observing and interacting with a wild octopus. One wild octopus gives them a tour of their surroundings. The team experiences several personal triumphs, such as Marion's wedding and Wilson’s wife being well enough to leave her care facility for a day. Octavia and Karma need to switch tanks, given that Karma is getting restless in her small tank and Octavia’s failing health demands a less stressful environment. The new Giant Ocean Tank opens and the aquarium hosts a grand reopening, garnering the largest attendance in history. Throughout the final pages, Sy muses about the soul and consciousness. When Octavia is moved to the barrel and the octopus team is able to touch her again, she shows she clearly remembers them and appreciates their comforting touch. While it’s not clear how much Athena, Octavia, Kali, and Karma value their connection with Montgomery—her value of them is incredibly meaningful and life changing.

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

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.

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

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