A behavioral ecologist’s riveting account of his decades-long obsession with octopuses: his discoveries, adventures, and new scientific understanding of their behaviors.
Of all the creatures of the deep blue, none is as captivating as the octopus. In Many Things Under a Rock, marine biologist David Scheel investigates four major mysteries about these elusive beings. How can we study an animal with perfect camouflage and secretive habitats? How does a soft and boneless creature defeat sharks and eels, while thriving as a predator of the most heavily armored animals in the sea? How do octopus bodies work? And how does a solitary animal form friendships, entice mates, and outwit rivals?
Over the course of his twenty-five years studying octopuses, Scheel has witnessed a sea change in what we know and are able to discover about octopus physiology and behavior—even an octopus’s inner life. Here he explores amazing new scientific developments, weaving accounts of his own research, and surprising encounters, with stories and legends of Indigenous peoples that illuminate our relationship with these creatures across centuries. In doing so, he reveals a deep affinity between humans and even the most unusual and unique undersea dwellers.
Octopuses are complex, emotional, and cognitive beings; even as Scheel unearths explanations for the key mysteries that have driven his work, he turns up many more things of wonder that lurk underneath. This is the story of what we have learned and what we are still learning about the natural history and wondrous lives of these animals with whom we share our blue planet.
About the Author
David Scheel, professor of marine biology at Alaska Pacific University, has researched the behavior and ecology of octopuses for over twenty-five years. He starred, with Heidi the Octopus and his daughter Laurel, in PBS’s Octopus: Making Contact. He lives in Anchorage, Alaska.
In Scheel’s many years of study and discovery for Many Things Under a Rock, indigenous science and stories are given equal weight with Western science.... The book abounds with wonders.... It is the elegance of an octopus’s movement, the shape-shifting and colouration of the creatures, that Scheel finds so beguiling.
— Kathleen Jamie - New Statesman
Includes numerous such dramatic and captivating octopus factoids, but it also presents an accessible and nuanced exploration of the lives of these intriguing invertebrates.... An engaging read. — Dan Blustein - Science
David Scheel’s astonishing observations make him one of the most important octopus ethologists working today. He is also, fortunately for us, a sensitive and lyrical writer, bringing knowledge and stories from native cultures to bear on the science he describes. I was agog at some of his accounts: severed arms wincing with pain; octopuses throwing things at each other; and octopuses seemingly standing sentinel over their octopus neighborhoods. This book is mind-blowing and soul-expanding. You’ll be thinking and talking about Many Things Under a Rock for a long time.
— Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus
Fascinating. Scheel’s unique perspective on these animals, his evocative writing, and his engagement with the traditional cultures of Alaska make this the deepest of octopus books. — Peter Godfrey-Smith, author of Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness
Page-turning natural history.... The author’s passion for octopuses, combined with his accessible language and vivid descriptions of his encounters, creates a memorable book that is sure to appeal to fans of underwater adventures and anyone who enjoyed the film My Octopus Teacher. Laurel Scheel’s simple yet elegant illustrations complement the text. A heartfelt and enlightening look at one of Earth’s most curious creatures.
— Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Fascinating.... A complex portrait of a surprising animal. — Publishers Weekly