The Soul of an Octopus

Sy Montgomery ( is a naturalist, author of 15 books, who specialises in conveying the wonder of the natural world to a wide audience. Since the first dawning realisation with Darwin in 1859 that humans are co-terminus with the natural world, every advance in our understanding of other creatures underscores the fact there is no substantive ontological difference. One of the creatures that could be closest to us in a strange way (since it is a marine cephalopod) is the octopus. This is on account of its highly complex nervous system, only part of which is localised in a brain. If highly complex neurology is the material substratum of consciousness, then it is quite possible the octopus is conscious in the way we are. Octopuses have varied personalities and an intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects like balls; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. But with a beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and a tongue covered with teeth, what kind of things could such a creature know? Scientists are now piecing together the intelligence of the octopus, watching how they solve problems and deciphering the meaning of their colour-changing camouflage techniques. Montgomery chronicles this growing appreciation of the octopus, but also tells a love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching and profound, The Soul of an Octopus speculates on what octopuses can teach us about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds. This is a slippery sucker of a book. Allow it to wrap itself around your mind. Enquire at your local library or consult  for full bibliographic details.


272 pages in Simon & Schuster

First published 21 May 2015

ISBN 978-1471149382


Sy Montgomery


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