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Book Reviews

Super Suckers: The Giant Pacific Octopus and Other Cephalopods of the Pacific Coast

by James A. Cosgrove and Neil McDaniel

Don’t be fooled by this book’s offbeat title or its relatively slight size: James A. Cosgrove and Neil McDaniel’s style is rarely humorous and definitely not lightweight. Cosgrove, a world expert on the Giant Pacific Octopus, and McDaniel, a photographer specializing in wildlife and natural history, have provided readers with a wealth of information about the phylum Mollusca.

Photos on almost every page assist in breaking up the occasionally dense text; the pictures are worth the price of the book on their own. There’s an uncommon and memorable shot of octopuses mating, for example, and another of a curious cephalopod examining a diver’s head. Granted, some of the blob-like images are difficult to decipher, but that is a result of the subject, and has nothing to do with the photographer.

Although the text is at times pedantic and patronizing – readers are provided with definitions of words they would certainly be familiar with – on the whole it is as enlightening as the photos. It’s easy to overlook the intermittent repetition in order to learn more about these shadowy, oft-maligned creatures of the deep. I’m edified to learn, for example, that there are 289 known species of octopus, weighing from one gram to over 50 kilograms. Even more interesting, however, is the discovery that these spineless, slithering sea creatures do occasionally capture and eat birds, and that a close relative of the Pacific octopus actually climbs trees to catch its dinner.

There haven’t been many books on these secretive, solitary creatures, and there is even less photography capturing their habits and habitats. Super Suckers more than adequately fills this void.