Chimps wield tools, chameleons change colors, and dogs can recognize their owners. Octopuses, as it turns out, are adept at all of the above. Not too shabby for a solitary, spineless marine creature, eh? In fact, octopuses (yes, that is the preferred pluralization) are inspiring riveting research in everything from biology to robotics and from neuroscience to defense technology.
As an associate editor at Scientific American, I try to sneak animal-oddity stories to my health and life sciences coverage whenever I can. A couple of years ago I blogged about octopuses that use coconut shells as portable protection (after being transfixed by the video of the animals awkwardly carrying these hilariously large hulls), a finding which many biologists consider to be the first evidence for tool use by an invertebrate. From that post—with guidance from a fantastic literary agent—a book idea was born.
Since then, I have immersed myself in all things octopus for the book, which will be published by Penguin's science imprint, Current, in a year or two. In the meantime, cephalopod scientists are doing great research that is just too fascinating to set aside for later.
This blog, as a precursor to my octopus opus, will feature the latest and greatest science news from the octopod world as well as tales of occasional adventures—and misadventures—from my worldwide travels to learn about these weird and wonderful animals.
Illustration courtesy of Ivan Phillipsen