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

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

by Wendy Williams (2)

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Kraken is the traditional name for gigantic sea monsters, and this book introduces one of the most charismatic, enigmatic, and curious inhabitants of the sea: the squid. The pages take the reader on a wild narrative ride through the world of squid science and adventure, along the way addressing some riddles about what intelligence is, and what monsters lie in the deep. In addition to squid, both giant and otherwise, Kraken examines other equally enthralling cephalopods, including the octopus and the cuttlefish, and explores their otherworldly abilities, such as camouflage and bioluminescence. Accessible and entertaining, Kraken is also the first substantial volume on the subject in more than a decade and a must for fans of popular science.

Praise for KRAKEN: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid 

"Williams writes with a deft, supple hand as she surveys these spindly, extraordinary beasts and their world. She reminds us that the known world might be considerably larger than in the days of the bestiary-makers, but there is still room for wonder and strangeness."
-Los Angeles

"Williams's account of squid, octopuses, and other cephalopods abounds with both ancient legend and modern science." 

"[Exposes squid's] eerie similarities to the human species, down to eye structure and the all-important brain cell, the neuron." 
-New York Post 

"just the right mix of history and science" 
-ForeWord Reviews

"Kraken is an engaging and expansive biography of a creature that sparks our imagination and stimulates our curiosity. It's a perfect blend of storytelling and science." 
-Vincent Pieribone, author of Aglow in the Dark

KRAKEN extracts pure joy, intellectual exhilaration, and deep wonder from the most unlikely of places--squid. It is hard to read Wendy Williams's luminous account and not feel the thrill of discovery of the utterly profound connections we share with squid and all other living things on the planet. With wit, passion, and skill as a storyteller, Williams has given us a beautiful window into our world and ourselves. --Neil Shubin, author of the national bestseller "Your Inner Fish

Wendy William's KRAKEN weaves vignettes of stories about historical encounters with squid and octopus, with stories of today's scientists who are captivated by these animals. Her compelling book has the power to change your world-view about these creatures of the sea, while telling the gripping, wholly comprehensible story of the ways in which these animals have changed human medical history. --Mark J. Spalding, President, The Ocean Foundation

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781613120859
Publisher: ABRAMS
Publication date: 03/01/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 851,527
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Wendy Williams's writing has appeared on the front pages of the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Baltimore Sun. She's also written for the New York Times, Parade Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and Science. Williams is the coauthor of Cape Wind, which was named one of 2007's ten best environmental books by Booklist and one of the year's best science books by Library Journal. She lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Introduction: From Vampire to Wallflower 8

Chapter 1 A Wonderful Fish 13

Chapter 2 A Saltwater Serengeti 30

Chapter 3 Blue Bloods 39

Chapter 4 Architeuthis on Ice 50

Chapter 5 Fuzzy Math and Tentacles 62

Chapter 6 Luminous Seas 78

Chapter 7 Diaphanous and Delicate 98

Chapter 8 Solving Frankenstein's Mystery 107

Chapter 9 Serendipitous Squid 121

Chapter 10 Heure d'Amour 132

Chapter 11 Playdate 147

Chapter 12 Fan Clubs and Film Stars 159

Chapter 13 One Lucky Sucker 170

Chapter 14 Smart Skin 184

Epilogue: Curious, Exciting-Yet Slightly Disturbing 196

Acknowledgments 201

Bibliography 204

Videos 212

Index 214

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Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
zibilee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cephalopods, a group of animals that include octopuses and squid, may be some of the oldest creatures in the known world and can vary in size from a fraction of an inch to hundreds of pounds. In this wonderful exploration of one of the sea¿s most mysterious class of creatures, Wendy Williams explores the strange and unique aspects of the cephalopod and explains why this odd creature may have done more for the advancement of medical science than any other animal in the world. She shares the reasons people are so squeamish when it comes to this animal and the unique way they display intelligence that scientists are only now beginning to discover and tap into. Drawing upon research that stretches back hundreds of years, Williams shares the common misconceptions that have hounded squid and octopuses from their earliest days and delights her audience with the weird and wholly unexpected reality and astounding facts about the cephalopods that abundantly fill Earth¿s oceans.I¿m a nut for science writing, particularly nature writing. In my efforts to discover all that I can about the flora and fauna that populate the world, I sometimes come across a book that I can¿t ignore. This was such a book. I had never really given squid and octopuses much thought because, frankly, they seemed a little too gelatinous and slimy for my liking. But when the opportunity to review this book came up, I jumped on it because it fed my need to know more about nature and the strange things in the sea. I wasn¿t disappointed in the slightest by this book and found that Williams has not only a conversational and accessible style, but that she used the most fascinating analogies and illustrations to show just what being a cephalopod is all about.Both octopuses and squid have developed and adapted all sorts of body weaponry over the millions of years they have evolved. They are known as experts at defending themselves, which seems counterintuitive because they don¿t have the protection offered by bones or shell with which to repel predators. Some cephalopods even take fleeing from prey to the next level, like the Japanese flying squid, who can launch its body out of the water to avoid predation. Some are adept at using their skin cells to change colors, and this technique is not only used for camouflage, but also to turn parts of their bodies into either an attractant or repellent by producing some truly startling colors. All cephalopods live in salt water and some can live up to fifteen years. Most cephalopods, however, do not live that long at all.This book was so packed with interesting information that it was like a treasure trove for readers looking for strange tidbits to keep the brain churning. For example, did you know that there are a few squid who can expel a mucus-filled ink that actually mimics the form of the squid when it¿s released, making it easier for the animal to escape? Or that most cephalopods have three hearts and copper-based blood (as opposed to human iron-based blood)? Many people have probably heard that a cephalopod arm is capable from separating from the body, but did you also know that the severed arm has the capability to live independently for hours? Some cephalopods can even leave the water to hunt on land at certain times. One of the most interesting things I found while reading is that some cephalopods are filled with a protein based bio-luminescent bacteria that enables them to turn lighter and darker beneath the waves, enabling them to be both invisible to predators and giving them light with which to hunt more capably.The research side of this book was also fantastic. Because of cephalopod research, the field of neuroscience has advanced monumentally, and studying cephalopods has helped science fill in questionable evolutionary gaps that have remained unsolved for hundreds of years. Research on squid has even proved promising in the search for a cure to Alzheimer's. It was also interesting to discover that squid share many
Asata on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fairly good science writing dealing with the current state of squid knowledge and research. Fascinating creatures that have saved lives.
cephaloparty on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a fascinating, fun, and amazing book. I learned so much and love cephalopods so much more for it. My only critique is that it's very prejudiced toward 'what nature can do to serve humanity', and mentions a handful of incidents or experiments that make me feel vaguely ill. Other than that, however, there are wonderful quotes, references to amazing research, and comparisons to surprising bits of pop culture (there's even a dragonball z reference--I'm not even kidding!) that make the awe-inspiring cephalopod traits even easier to understand.
cissa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not only a beautifully designed book, it's one that's very informative about cephalopods, and the ways they fit into and have helped modern science.I still am more interested in how they think, just as I am w3ith corvids.
bragan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think cephalopods (a category that includes squid and octopuses) are fascinating creatures. They're wonderfully alien and surprisingly intelligent, and I felt like I didn't know anywhere near enough about them. I was hoping this book would rectify that for me, but, while I did learn quite a few things, it's not really an organized exploration of what we know and don't know about squid and their relatives. It's more about the experience of studying these animals, with a focus on how research on them has lead to more general discoveries in science and medicine. Which is fine, but it's not quite what I was hoping for.
cmbohn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Themes: science, research, fishing, weird critters, evolutionI love the ocean. I just can't swim. (And actually, I hate the water. I have tried to learn to swim, but it's this phobia thing I just can't seem to master.) So I have to get my underwater fix from documentaries and books. And the giant squid is like the coolest sea creature ever! I mean, it eluded scientist for hundreds of years, but sailors knew better. It is legendary. So a whole book about it was just impossible to resist.Turns out the book is not just about the giant squid, but about cephalopods in general. They're all here - nautilus, cuttlefish, octopus, and of course, squid. It's full of wild and weird facts you never knew, info on the latest cutting edge research. (And since a lot of in involves dissection, that can be taken literally.) If you ever loved those films by Jacques Cousteau, I can absolutely recommend this book. It's not perfect. I wish there were better pictures. But it is cool and weird. The chapter on squid sex was the funniest thing I've read in a long time. However, when I tried sharing some interesting facts of life with my teenage daughter all she did was squeal, "Ew!" About 40 times. So avoid that chapter if you have a weak stomach or are especially fond of calamari. 4 stars.
Kellswitch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For the most part I found this book to be highly enjoyable, very informative and entertaining and easy to read. I really enjoyed the look at both the various cephalopod families and our long history with them as we've learned more and more over the years. The last couple of chapters got a bit hard to read, especially the one about neurobiology and it's study, I can understand why it's in there considering how important cephalapods have been in the understanding and study of neurons, but it got long and very hard to read at that point. With the exception of that chapter the rest of the book was a breeze to read and amazingly informative for such a small book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very enjoyable. It goes into depth about many interesting traits of cephlapods. The one thing i would reccomend before deciding to purchase this book is to really enjoy it you should have a strong scientific background and be interested in the nervous system. I loved this book because it caused me to call on information that I had not thought about in years. It was also nice to read about the curent research going on that I thought was neglected when I was studying it.
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TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
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 and have beached themselves as they did in Monterey Bay in 1992. 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 human heads. 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 enormous 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 feeding 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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoy popular science books, but this reads like a high school term paper. Couldn't finish it.