First up is the informational picture book Octopuses!: Strange and Wonderful by Laurence Pringle and illustrated by Meryl Henderson.
Octopuses! gives a wonderful overview of the biology of these fascinating creatures. The author first explains that octopuses are mollusks and discusses some other common mollusks. Then he gives a detailed description of the anatomy of a typical octopus and some of the different kinds. Other topics include what eats octopuses (predators), how they hide by changing colors (camouflage), and what octopuses eat. The author also explains the life cycle in some detail.
It is a perfect choice for young readers wanting to learn more about these amazing animals.
The second book is for slightly older readers, The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of the Mollusk (Scientists in the Field Series) by Sy Montgomery and photographs by Keith Ellenbogen.
As with the other titles in the Scientists in the Field series, the focus is as much on the scientists who study octopuses as the animals themselves. In the first chapter we meet four scientists who have devoted their lives to researching these amazing creatures. Canadian Jennifer Mather wanted to study marine biology, but found resistance in what was perceived as a “man’s” field. Instead she became a psychology professor and then applied her studies to octopuses. American David Scheel studied lions for his doctorate degree, but when he couldn’t find a job working with lions, switched to marine biology. Tatiana Leite is a professor of marine ecology in Brazil. Keely Langford works at the Vancouver Aquarium.
The rest of the chapters document their efforts to find and study the local octopuses around the island of Moorea in the Pacific Ocean, while at the same time revealing details of octopus biology. For example, their excellent camouflage skills that protect the octopuses from predators also make them hard for scientists to track down. Often the scientists look for the shells left behind from when the octopuses feed, piles called middens, for clues of their whereabouts.
If you have ever wanted to don a wet suit and search the ocean floor for octopuses, The Octopus Scientists is the book for you. If not, reading it might just make you want to give it a try.
It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
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