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Octopus Secret: too smart to eat

Transparency: I have enjoyed eating octopus, especially fresh ones in Greece and during my walk along northern Spain's Camino de Santiago. Luckily, this happened before projects like the Oscar winning documentary My Octopus Teacher and Mark Robar’s YouTube video of an octopus maze, which made me think the creatures showcase too many positive traits to warrant a trip to my stomach. Any fading edges of my non-octopus consumption resolve just ended with release of the new Natio

nal Geographic series Secrets of the Octopus, part of a nature franchise whose producers include director James Cameron of Aliens and Avatar fame. As expected from both Cameron and National Geographic, the newest entry features stunning cinematography, with octopuses providing a cavalcade of colors, shapes, and incredible behaviors. Bearing the titles “Shapeshifters,” “Masterminds,” and “Social Networkers,” each of the three episodes highlights behaviors that reveal distinct character traits plus curiosity, affection, and especially, intelligence. A team of writers give Antman actor Paul Rudd clear observations to narrate in simple terms, including cultural touchstone phrases like “speed dating” to describe one form of octopus hookups. The final episode quickly shifts into an enlightening “Behind the Scenes” talk between National Geographic expert Dr. Alex Schnell and director Cameron as they review footage for the series. Cameron, already involved in the previous two Secrets of… entries, seems ideal for an examination of octopuses. He describes part of their appeal as “alien,” and his own explorations in deep water for both Titanic and the Avatar movies led him to a conclusion that the ocean has much more to teach people. No argument there; but as a bit of a foodie, I’m relieved he hasn’t yet produced a series about Dungeness crabs.

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