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.

Follow Caspar Henderson on Twitter: @casparhenderson.

NYR DAILY

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.