I had octopus carpaccio the night before I began reading The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery. Do Not Read This Book if you ever want to enjoy eating octopus again. Today in the fish market in the Maldives, I was happily taking photos when I saw these poor white, ethereal octopus corpses. I had to work hard to keep from bursting into tears.
From the book, I learned they are magnificent creatures - with the ability to disguise themselves myriad ways, changing shape, texture and color and squirting ink. The author of the book has named some of their camouflage effects like "dappled sunlight", "rocks and stones." Their eight tentacles can each be engaged in separate and unrelated activities. Some researchers believe there is a separate brain in each arm. They lay eggs in long chains like strings of pearls and hang them from the ceiling of their caves, guarding them for months, grooming them, caressing them as they mature.
The author talks about watching an octopus in the wild, shape shift from looking like a screech owl, to a silken scarf, a beating heart, a gliding snail, an algae covered rock. After the display, the creature "pours itself into a hole, like water down a drain and disappears completely."
Each sucker on the tentacle can hold a lot of weight. Up to 42 kg for suckers of the Giant Pacific octopus, the biggest one of all. The suckers can carry out small, almost dainty movements, like untying knots. Even though some grow to a hundred pounds and eight feet in length, they can squeeze "through an opening the size of an orange."
Their personalities are different - some gentle, some assertive. They play and solve problems. They don't live long-a couple of years. They die suddenly.
Business is brisk at the fish market as batches of mostly tuna are bought and sold. If "The Soul of a Tuna" is ever written, I'm skipping it.