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love my tentacles
PostPosted: Tue 14:23, 20 Aug 2013

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love my tentacles
Mariners of old told of the fearsome kraken, an enormous octopus-like monster that drags whole ships to watery graves; and malicious,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], slithering tentacles are an ever-present threat to the space-faring heroes of science fiction. In these stories, squid and octopuses appear at best, uninteresting and at worst, evil.
In Kraken: The curious,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], exciting, and slightly disturbing science of squid,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], Wendy Williams goes some to way to rescue their reputation, celebrating cephalopods in all their wonderful otherness. And there is a lot to celebrate.
Williams introduces us to the violent sex lives of the Dana octopus squid (Taningia danae), whose males slash females with their beaks, opening wounds to insert sperm; to bobtail squid,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], which contain light-emitting bacteria that mimic moonlight; and to the female giant Pacific octopus,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], so dedicated to the task of fanning her thousands of eggs that she starves to death in its execution.
These titbits of natural history are interwoven with a compelling historical narrative, recounting cephalopod science (with a focus on squid) from the very earliest sightings to their use in 21st-century neuroscience.
Williams joins scientists at sea, in the lab and in the classroom, as they catch, dissect and philosophise about cephalopods. Though at times these journalistic interludes can seem tangential, written in a chatty style which jars a little with the more expository science passages,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], they no doubt capture the excitement and interest of research work.
The discussion of cephalopod intelligence, though couched in rather broad terms, throws up some interesting nuggets. How do you test for intelligence in a creature whose lifestyle is so alien to ours?
With such dazzling diversity and intelligence, it's easy to see how cephalopods can mesmerise people. Reading Kraken could put you under that spell too.

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