Caspar Henderson’s writing has appeared in the Financial Times, the Independent, and the New Statesman. He is the author of The Book of Barely Imagined Beings.


Octopus: The Footed Void

Wonderpus octopus, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia

In a celebrated poem Ogden Nash begs the octopus to tell him if its limbs are arms or legs. Textbooks have a no-nonsense answer: they are arms, not legs (and emphatically not tentacles). But super tongues would be at least as good. Each octopus arm is a muscular hydrostat, like a human tongue, and each of the tens or hundreds of suckers on it is lined with tens of thousands of chemoreceptors—taste buds to you and me—and a comparable number of nerve endings that provide an exquisite sense of touch.