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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the remarkable biology of octopus, squid, cuttlefish and nautilus, from jet propulsion to changing colour, and what makes them so adaptable.

The octopus, the squid, the nautilus and the cuttlefish are some of the most extraordinary creatures on this planet, intelligent and yet apparently unlike other life forms. They are cephalopods and are part of the mollusc family like snails and clams, and they have some characteristics in common with those. What sets them apart is the way members of their group can change colour, camouflage themselves, recognise people, solve problems, squirt ink, power themselves with jet propulsion and survive both on land, briefly, and in the deepest, coldest oceans. And, without bones or shells, they grow so rapidly they can outstrip their rivals when habitats change, making them the great survivors and adaptors of the animal world.


Louise Allcock
Lecturer in Zoology at the National University of Ireland, Galway

Paul Rodhouse
Emeritus Fellow of the British Antarctic Survey


Jonathan Ablett
Senior Curator of Molluscs at the Natural History Museum

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

47 minutes

Last on

Thu 1 Feb 2018 21:30


Giant squid: from the deep sea to display - Natural History Museum

Wikipedia – Cephalopod

Peter Boyle and Paul Rodhouse, Cephalopods: Ecology and Fisheries (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005)

Peter Boyle (ed.), Cephalopod Life Cycles: Volume 1: Species Accounts (Academic Press, 1984)

Peter Boyle (ed.), Cephalopod Life Cycles: Volume 2: Comparative Reviews (Academic Press, 1987)

Richard Ellis, The Search for the Giant Squid (Penguin, 1999)

Peter Godfrey-Smith, Other Minds: The Octopus, The Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017)

Roger T. Hanlon and John B. Messenger, Cephalopod Behaviour (Cambridge University Press, 1998)

Frank W. Lane, Kingdom of the Octopus: The Life History of the Cephalopoda (Pyramid Publications, 1962)

Jennifer Mather, Roland C. Anderson and James B. Wood, Octopus: The Ocean’s Intelligent Invertebrate (Timber Press, 2010)

China Mieville, Kraken (Pan, 2011)

Marion Nixon and John Z. Young, The Brain and Lives of Cephalopods (Oxford University Press, 2002)

Mark Norman, Cephalopods: A World Guide: Octopuses, Argonauts, Cuttlefish, Squid, Nautilus (ConchBooks, 2000)

Danna Staaf, Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods (ForeEdge, 2017)

Peter Douglas Ward, Natural History of Nautilus (HarperCollins, London, 1987).

Wendy Williams, Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid (Abrams, 2011)


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Louise Allcock
Interviewed Guest Paul Rodhouse
Interviewed Guest Jonathan Ablett
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 1 Feb 2018 09:00
  • Thu 1 Feb 2018 21:30

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