Jennifer Mather, What is in an octopus's mind?


Mather draws from a lifetime devoted to studying individual octopuses in the wild and in aquaria to combine a natural history account of their actions with an argument from design adopted from second-, often third-hand sources. The 'distributed' [decentralised] nervous system said to contrast with that of vertebrates – a premise largely accepted by Mather’s commentators so far – does not reflect the original literature on motor control, nor the facts of comparative anatomy, functional morphology and morphogenesis. Ontogeny is absent. With the help of some old or little-known illustrations from my own participant-observer experimental investigations, I will try here to unpick threads of the pre-enlightenment embroidery shrouding the argument and will call into question the use of reductionist language.

Author Biography

Andrew Packard is a zoologist, teuthologist, nerve and muscle physiologist, and student of human and nonhuman animal behaviour. Now retired, Packard was formerly Reader in Physiology, Edinburgh University, Scotland, and Professor of Zoology, Naples, Italy; he is now Research Affiliate, Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University. Website