Many Things Under a Rock

The Mysteries of Octopuses

By David Scheel
Illustrations by Laurel “Yoyo” Scheel

Book description provided by W.W. Norton:

A behavioral ecologist’s riveting account of his decades-long obsession with octopuses: his discoveries, adventures, and new scientific understanding of their behaviors.

Of all the creatures of the deep blue, none is as captivating as the octopus. In Many Things Under a Rock, marine biologist David Scheel investigates four major mysteries about these elusive beings. How can we study an animal with perfect camouflage and secretive habitats? How does a soft and boneless creature defeat sharks and eels, while thriving as a predator of the most heavily armored animals in the sea? How do octopus bodies work? And how does a solitary animal form friendships, entice mates, and outwit rivals?

Over the course of his twenty-five years studying octopuses, Scheel has witnessed a sea change in what we know and are able to discover about octopus physiology and behavior—even an octopus’s inner life. Here he explores amazing new scientific developments, weaving accounts of his own research, and surprising encounters, with stories and legends of Indigenous peoples that illuminate our relationship with these creatures across centuries. In doing so, he reveals a deep affinity between humans and even the most unusual and unique undersea dwellers.

Octopuses are complex, emotional, and cognitive beings; even as Scheel unearths explanations for the key mysteries that have driven his work, he turns up many more things of wonder that lurk underneath. This is the story of what we have learned and what we are still learning about the natural history and wondrous lives of these animals with whom we share our blue planet.

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“fascinating…a complex portrait of a surprising animal”

Publisher’s Weekly

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This book is mind-blowing and soul-expanding. You’ll be thinking and talking about MANY THINGS UNDER A ROCK for a long time.

~ Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus

Must-read title selection, June 2023 Next Big Idea Club:

A heartfelt and enlightening look at one of Earth’s most curious creatures.

Kirkus Reviews

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Kirkus Star book review

Next Big Idea Club Must Read June 2023

Abounds with wonder…a new kind of natural history

New Statesman

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An accessible and nuanced exploration of the lives of these intriguing invertebrates.”

Summer Reading 2023 Selection, AAAS Science

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Scheel’s lifetime fascination with these extraordinary, almost otherworldly creatures shines through the pages.

Best Books of 2023 Barnes & Noble

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Editor’s Pick Best Book June 2023 Nonfiction Amazon

…magic…enough to melt the stoniest of hearts.

The Mail on Sunday 2 Jul 2023

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“endearing as well as informative … a perfect literary companion…”


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…literary, alluring, and entertaining…


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