At a depth of more than four thousand meters, at the bottom of the ocean off Hawaii, lives a little night ghost.

Sometimes it looks white, then again it looks transparent.

You could almost think that a lightbulb would make it glow.

It's just four inches tall, and up until five years ago its existence was top secret.

But when it was tracked down by an American diving robot, everyone soon knew.

It's called Casper, like the friendly cartoon spirit, but has eight arms instead of two.

Because this cute leprechaun is an octopus.

Kai Spanke

Editor in the features section.

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Wait a minute, the first will object, it has to be: an octopus.

The author and translator Michael Stavarič takes it easy: “Of course, the masculine article, the octopus, is grammatically correct, but the female form, the octopus, is also used colloquially.” According to the Duden, both are allowed, which is why we are from now on will switch back and forth cheerfully.

In any case, Michael Stavarič wrote a book about octopuses in which he discusses everything to do with these animals.

It is a kind of hidden object with information, jokes, search images, an octopus to cut out and adorable illustrations.

Michèle Ganser stages octopuses, sharks, whales and coral fish in front of an underwater starry sky with so much stylistic flair that you can hardly see enough.

Cigar sharks and gravel worms

This backdrop goes perfectly with the text, which Michael Stavarič does not begin with cephalopods, but with space. We learn that there are red giants and white dwarfs, that building blocks of life come from the vastness of the universe and could have landed in the sea with comets (aliens!) - and that the author once wanted to become an astronaut, marine biologist and dentist. Then he encourages the young readers to write down in his book what career aspirations they have. There is enough lined white space for the personal top eight. No coincidence, because octopuses have eight tentacles, and "if the 8 falls over and lies horizontally, it becomes a symbol of infinity in mathematics", which brings us back to the "infinite cosmos".

Michael Stavarič is an associative way of doing things.

On the gag page, he quotes thirteen-year-old Thomas from Graz as follows: “How do two octopuses fall in love?

On Tinter! ”Elsewhere he uses the abbreviation SSW for pregnancy week without explanation and in exuberance forgets that Victor Hugo is spelled with“ c ”and not with“ k ”like octopus.

We learn that the cigar shark is called cookiecutter shark in English because its bite causes circular wounds, and that "crocodile" means something like "gravel worm".

Michael Stavarič also introduces us to eight words with “krak”, including Krakow and Krakelee.

The oldest intelligent living beings

This view in all directions often leads away from the actual topic, but it is interesting enough: one reads full of amazement about the 2240 suction cups that the giant Pacific octopus has. She can pull or lift sixteen kilograms with each one. The animals with the three hearts and 33,000 genes (humans have 25,000) are not only strong, no, they are also and smart. At one point, researchers locked an octopus in a clear container. Escape route: a six centimeter wide hole. The cartilage that the animals have between their eyes is just as big. The octopus felt the hole and slipped through. The next time the opening was reduced by two centimeters. Again the octopus examined the outcome - without consequences.

Octopuses do not get particularly old, they only last two to three years. Instead, these creatures, who actually look as if they came from another planet, have been roaming the oceans for four hundred million years. According to Michael Stavarič, they are considered to be the oldest intelligent living beings on earth. “Man as we know him” has existed on this planet for “a mere 40,000 years”. To save one's honor, it should be added that the oldest species of the genus Homo lived more than two million years ago.

The octopus is a trendy animal, you can find it on mugs, T-shirts and as a plush companion.

Ever since the octopus Paul predicted the results of the soccer World Cup in 2010, eight-armed squids have even had a reputation for delivering first-class oracles.

They are much more than that.

Anyone who reads Michael Stavarič's book will never again regard them as somehow funny slithering creatures.

Michèle Ganser and Michael Stavarič: “Fascination Octopus”.

Essence of an unknown world.

Leykam Verlag, Graz 2021. 144 pp., Hardcover, 25, - €.

From 8 years

Keywords: octopuses, michael stavarič, lightbulb, author, hearts, octopus, book, planet, creatures, power, children, ocean, existence, depth, diving robot