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Are You Smarter Than An Octopus?

Syd Montgomery
Syd Montgomery with Octopus cyanea Mary Lou, taken on her expedition with David Scheel to Moorea

The octopus has always been the stuff of spine-tingling legend, like that of the kraken, the many-armed sea monster believed to drag ships to the bottom of the sea after dining on the crew. Or Gertie the Pus, the giant Pacific octopus that lives under the Narrows Bridge connecting Tacoma, Washington, to Gig Harbor.

In reality, the octopus is more benign but equally fascinating. Did you know the octopus has two-thirds of its brain neurons distributed throughout its eight arms? Or that the severed arm of an octopus can walk independently toward a food source and move it to where its mouth should be?

The octopus was the only invertebrate included in The Cambridge Decision of Consciousness, a 2012 declaration by scientists expressing consensus on animal consciousness. But what does consciousness mean in an octopus and how does it drive the relationships Sy Montgomery and Dr. David Schell have with these alien beings?

Scientists wonder if humans can even begin to understand the intellect and mystery of the octopus.

So, should we be eating octopus?


  • Sy Montgomery - The author of nearly 20 books for adults and children, including The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness
  • David Scheel - A marine biologist and behavioral ecologist at Alaska Pacific University; he has a forthcoming book on the behavioral ecology of marine animals
  • Silvia Killingsworth - Managing editor at The New Yorker

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show, which originally aired August 26, 2015.

Betsy started as an intern at WNPR in 2011 after earning a Master's Degree in American and Museum Studies from Trinity College. She served as the Senior Producer for 'The Colin McEnroe Show' for several years before stepping down in 2021 and returning to her previous career as a registered nurse. She still produces shows with Colin and the team when her schedule allows.
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