Book review: Kraken: the curious, exciting, and slightly disturbing science of squid by Wendy Williams

 

       Traveling from prehistory to early America right on to tomorrow, Wendy Williams tracks the squid and octopus in her book Kraken. Fodder for great excitement and debate in the 1800's, squid have become once again a hot item, although mostly in the medical and scientific communities. From Monterey to Australia to Massachusetts, the author finds plenty of tantalizing tidbits to dish.  She also meets some fascinating people.
    For example, Joe DiGiorgis started out as a kid collecting and supplying squid for labs around the world.  A National Institutes of Health scientist once asked him for 2,000 squid eyes to aid in eye research.  Joe collected one squid eye every five minutes for five dollars and sent the 2,000 eyeballs off. But eventually he got bored.  Today he is a Providence College neuroscience professor with his own lab at Woods Hole's Marine Biological Laboratory. His research is studying and developing theories of Alzheimer's.Humboldt Squid
    Have you ever wondered how neurosurgeons practice?  We sure don't want them practicing on us!  It seems they visit the Marine Biological Laboratory and work with squid axons, which function and react in much the same way as our brains' neurons. If they can work on squid axons without nicking them, maybe we'll let them work on us.
    Julie Stewart lives on Monterey Bay, catching Humboldt squid and studying them as part of the research with her doctoal advisor, Bill Gilly, of Stanford University and Hopkins Marine Station. Humboldt squid have recently become resident in the waters off California, increasingly so, and
scientists want to know why.  That means lots of time spent out on the cold, deep waters of the bay catching these slippery critters with sharp beaks, tagging them, and releasing them again.  Just so you know, those tags can cost hundreds and thousands of dollars, so if you see one, report the sighting or give it back, if it is found loose or attached to a dead creature (include the corpse in such cases). This may seem silly, but it could someday save your eyesight or help a neurosurgeon operate on a brain tumor. A well-written book on a mysterious topic.~Tessa Eger