The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk

photos by Keith Ellenbogen. 80p. (Scientists in the Field). bibliog. ebook available. index. HMH. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544232709.
RedReviewStarGr 6–9—Searching for octopuses along the coast of Moorea in French Polynesia might sound like a dream assignment. However, these elusive mollusks are master of deceptive camouflage: boneless wonders that can ooze into impossibly small spaces and that tend to change their locations abruptly, leaving merely a tidy stack of emptied shells from past meals. Montgomery and Ellenbogen join psychologist Jennifer Mather and her team as they methodically explore Moorea's fringing reefs, recording finds of octopus dens and middens on geographic grids, meeting octopods here and there that peer curiously from their hiding places. Interspersed with this logical, systematic investigation is a series of fascinating asides: discussions of the Centre de Researches Insulaires et Observatoire de l'Environnement de Polynésie Française, of the intelligence of these evasive creatures and their amazing capability to change the color and texture of their skin, and of the coral habitats they select as dwelling places. Through sharply crafted text, Montgomery shares her enthusiasm with readers, and Ellenbogen's vibrant color photos allow a crystalline window into a very special environment. This glimpse into an alien world and mind combines biology and psychology: an exciting pairing.
VERDICT Another enticing entry in a series devoted to highlighting enthusiastic scientists hard at work in the fields they love.

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