Secrets of the Octopus Reviews

secrets of the octopus by sy montgomery

by Sy Montgomery (Author)
National Geographic (March 19, 2024) ISBN-10 ‏ :1426223722

Advance Praise:

The stories and science in this book are fascinating. They show us how the octopus is like an alien intelligence with amazing abilities.
—Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation, and more than 30 other books.

Montgomery writes with brilliance, humor, and a rich empathy that makes the reader look at the world of sea creatures in an entirely new way. It’s a marvel.
—Susan Orlean, author of On Animals and The Orchid Thief.

Secrets of the Octopus is an engaging deep dive into an 8-armed force of intelligence.
—Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and nine other books.


In this enjoyable study, naturalist Montgomery examines the “remarkable behaviors and individual quirks” of octopuses. The invertebrates are masters of disguise, Montgomery explains, noting that they can change colors “up to 177 times an hour and assume 50 different body patterns.” Expounding on the octopus’s distinctive physiology, she writes that their “gelatinous bodies” can wriggle through the smallest of gaps (a common Sydney octopus in a Vermont lab escaped its enclosure by squeezing through “an opening the size of a cherry”), and that each of their “eight arms possesses its own brainy processing center,” allowing even detached arms to capture prey. Elsewhere, she discusses the animal’s use of tools (coconut octopuses carry around shells that they use as shields when attacked) and propensity for play (the Cleveland Metropark Zoo’s octopus enrichment manual encourages keepers to “offer their charges toys like baby teething rings [and] building blocks”). A bounty of full-color photos provides vivid, up-close snapshots of the species discussed, and material on mating rituals proves strangely fascinating; for instance, male giant Pacific octopuses use a “specialized third right arm” to place a “sperm packet” inside the female’s “mantle opening—the same opening with which octopuses inhale water to oxygenate their gills.” Fans of BBC’s Blue Planet will want to add this to their shelf.
— Publishers Weekly