Sunday, May 8, 2011

Kraken by Wendy Williams

Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid

Absolutely suited for would-be scientists of any age, this book is a great introduction to cephalopods. Lest you think you are not interested, consider this: as ocean temperatures rise and salinity changes, giant Humboldt squid are being found in huge numbers much farther north than ever before. Humboldt squid can reach up to 6 feet in length and weigh up to 100 pounds, and have a dangerous reputation for eating men alive, were one to fall from a boat into schooling squid. While "eating men alive" is probably untrue, their tentacles have teeth and barbs, and some divers find their wet suits punctured and blood drawn. The brain of squid is extremely complex and distributed in their arms: their tentacles operate with lightening-fast speed & independently of each other.

But Humboldts have nothing on the colossal squid, which can reach 40-50 feet in length and have eyeballs as big as a human head. Fishermen of old used to tell stories of squid swallowing whole ships, or trying to. While the stories are discounted as mere tales, there is no denying the sheer brainpower and extraordinary abilities of cephalopods operating in water. Wendy Williams briefly introduces us to famous octopi who have lived in some aquariums and talks a little about cuttlefish, which have a bone structure so light and yet so strong that materials scientists are using the principles learned from cuttlefish to build land structures.

Until recently colossal squid have not been photographed in their environment because of their extraordinary speed, evasion techniques, and the depth of their dives. But a Japanese scientist made headline news with his film of a colossal squid feeding in 2005. Photos and links are included in the book to view landmarks in our understanding of these mysterious and ingenious creatures.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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