squid, carnivorous marine cephalopod mollusk. The squid is one of the most highly developed invertebrates, well adapted to its active, predatory life. The characteristic molluscan shell is reduced to a horny plate shaped like a quill pen and buried under the mantle.

The mantle, the chief swimming organ of the animal, is modified into lengthwise fins along the posterior end of the body and projects forward like a collar around the head. As the mantle relaxes and contracts, the squid swims forward, upward, and downward. Water is expelled in jets from the muscular funnel located just below the head, propelling the squid backward in abrupt jetlike motions. Two of the ten sucker-bearing arms (used to steer in swimming) are tentacles that can seize prey, which is then cut into pieces by the animal's strong beaklike jaws.

The squid breathes through gills, and may emit a cloud of inky material from its ink sac when in danger. The circulatory and nervous systems are highly developed. The eye of the squid is remarkably similar to that of humans—an example of convergent evolution, as there is no common ancestor. Squids are also distinguished by internal cartilaginous supports. Some deep-sea forms have luminescent organs.

The common squid is found from Maine to the Carolinas, often moving in shoals. In the United States tons of squid are used for fish bait, particularly by the cod fisheries in New England. Squid is a favorite food in East Asia and in the Mediterranean area. Species range in size from about 2 in. (5 cm) to the proportions of Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, the colossal squid, which is the largest of all invertebrates and may attain a mantle length of 13 ft (4 m) and total length of 33-46 ft (10-14 m), and the giant squid, Architeuthis dux, which has a mantle length of 7.4 ft (2.25 m) and is known to reach 43 ft (13 m) in total length.

Squids are classified in the phylum Mollusca, class Cephalopoda, order Teuthoidea.

Squid are marine cephalopods of the order Teuthida, which comprises around 300 species. Like all other cephalopods, squid have a distinct head, bilateral symmetry, a mantle, and arms. Squid, like cuttlefish, have eight arms and two tentacles arranged in pairs.

Modification from ancestral forms

Squid have differentiated from their ancestral mollusks in such a way that the body plan has been condensed antero-posteriorly and extended dorso-ventrally. What before may have been the foot of the ancestor is now modified into a complex set of tentacles and highly developed sense organs, including advanced eyes similar to those of vertebrates.

The shell of the ancestor has been lost, with only an internal gladius, or pen, remaining. The pen is a feather-shaped internal structure that supports the mantle of squid and serves as a site for muscle attachment. It is made of a chitin-like substance.


The main body mass of the squid is enclosed in the mantle, which has a swimming fin along each side. It should be noted that these fins, unlike in other marine organisms, are not the main source of ambulation in most species.

The skin of the squid is covered in chromatophores, which enable the squid to change color to suit its surroundings. The underside of the squid is also almost always lighter in color than the topside, in order to provide camouflage from both prey and predator.

Under the body are openings to the mantle cavity, which contains the gills (ctenidia) and openings to the excretory and reproductive systems. At the front of the mantle cavity lies the siphon, which the squid uses for locomotion via precise jet propulsion. In this form of locomotion, water is sucked into the mantle cavity and expelled out of the siphon in a fast, strong jet. The direction of the siphon can be changed, in order to suit the direction of travel.

Inside the mantle cavity, beyond the siphon, lies the visceral mass of the squid, which is covered by a thin, membranous epidermis. Under this are all the major internal organs of the squid.

Nervous system

The giant axon of the squid, which may be up to 1 mm in diameter in some larger species, innervates the mantle and controls part of the jet propulsion system.

Reproductive system

In female squid, the ink sac is hidden from view by a pair of white nidamental glands, which lie anterior to the gills. There are also red-spotted accessory nidamental glands. Both of these organs are associated with manufacture of food supplies and shells for the eggs. Females also have a large translucent ovary, situated towards the posterior of the visceral mass.

Male squid do not possess these organs, but instead have a large testis in place of the ovary, and a spermatophoric gland and sac. In mature males, this sac may contain spermatophores, which are placed inside the mantle of the female during mating.

Digestive system

Squid, like all cephalopods, have complex digestive systems. Food is transported into a muscular stomach, found roughly in the midpoint of the visceral mass. The bolus is then transported into the caecum for digestion. The caecum, a long, white organ, is found next to the ovary or testis. In mature squid, more priority is given to reproduction and so the stomach and caecum often shrivel up during the later stages of life. Finally, food goes to the liver (or digestive gland), found at the siphon end of the squid, for absorption. Solid waste is passed out of the rectum. Beside the rectum is the ink sac, which allows a squid to discharge a black ink into the mantle cavity at short notice.

Cardiovascular system

Squid have three hearts. Two branchial hearts, feeding the gills, each surrounding the larger systemic heart that pumps blood around the body. The hearts have a faint greenish appearance and are surrounded by the renal sacs - the main excretory system of the squid. The kidneys are faint and difficult to identify and stretch from the hearts (located at the posterior side of the ink sac) to the liver. The systemic heart is made of three chambers, a lower ventricle and two upper auricles.


The head end of the squid bears 8 arms and 2 tentacles, each a form of muscular hydrostat containing many suckers along the edge. These tentacles do not grow back if severed. In the mature male squid, one basal half of the left ventral tentacle is hectocotylised — and ends in a copulatory pad rather than suckers. It is used for intercourse between mature males and females.

The mouth of the squid is equipped with a sharp horny beak mainly made of chitin and cross-linked proteins, and is used to kill and tear prey into manageable pieces. The beak is very robust, but does not contain any minerals, unlike the teeth and jaws of many other organisms, including marine species. Captured whales often have squid beaks in their stomachs, the beak being the only indigestible part of the squid. The mouth contains the radula (the rough tongue common to all molluscs except bivalvia and aplacophora).

The eyes, found on either side of the head, each contain a hard lens. The lens is focused through movement, much like the lens of a camera or telescope, rather than changing shape as the lens in the human eye does.


The majority of squid are no more than long, although the giant squid may reach in length.

In 1978, the "NOFOUL" rubber coating of the AN/SQS-26 SONAR dome of USS Stein (FF-1065) was damaged by multiple cuts over 8 percent of the dome surface. Nearly all of the cuts contained remnants of sharp, curved claws found on the rims of suction cups of some squid tentacles. The claws were much larger than those of any squid that had been discovered at that time.

In 2003, a large specimen of an abundant but poorly understood species, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni (the Colossal Squid), was discovered. This species may grow to in length, making it the largest invertebrate. It also possesses the largest eyes in the animal kingdom. Giant squid are often featured in literature and folklore with a frightening connotation. The Kraken is a legendary tentacled monster possibly based on sightings of real giant squid.

In February 2007, a Colossal Squid weighing 495 kg (1,091 lb) and measuring around 10 metres (33 ft) in length was caught by a New Zealand fishing vessel off the coast of Antarctica.


Squid are members of the class Cephalopoda, subclass Coleoidea, order Teuthida, of which there are two major suborders, Myopsina and Oegopsina (including the giant squids like Architeuthis dux). Teuthida is the largest of the cephalopod orders, edging out the octopuses (order Octopoda) for total number of species, with around 300 classified into 29 families.

The order Teuthida is a member of the superorder Decapodiformes (from the Greek for "ten legs"). Two other orders of decapodiform cephalopods are also called squid, although they are taxonomically distinct from Teuthida and differ recognizably in their gross anatomical features. They are the bobtail squid of order Sepiolida and the Ram's Horn Squid of the monotypic order Spirulida. The Vampire Squid, however, is more closely related to the octopuses than to any of the squid.

Commercial fishing

According to the FAO, the total cephalopod catch for 2002 was 3,173,272 tonnes. Of this, 2,189,206 tonnes, or 75.8 percent, was squid. The following table lists the squid species fishery catches which exceeded 10,000 tonnes in 2002.
World squid catch in 2002
Species Family Common name Catch
Loligo gahi Loliginidae Patagonian squid 24,976 1.1
Loligo pealei Loliginidae Longfin squid 16,684 0.8
Common squids nei Loliginidae 225,958 10.3
Ommastrephes bartrami Ommastrephidae Neon flying squid 22,483 1.0
Illex argentinus Ommastrephidae Argentine shortfin squid 511,087 23.3
Dosidicus gigas Ommastrephidae Jumbo flying squid 406,356 18.6
Todarodes pacificus Ommastrephidae Japanese flying squid 504,438 23.0
Nototoda russloani Ommastrephidae Wellington flying squid 62,234 2.8
Squids nei Various 414,990 18.6
Total squid 2,189,206 100.0

As food

Many species of squid are popular as food in cuisines as diverse as Korean and Italian.

In English-speaking countries, squid as food is often known by the Mediterranean (Spanish and Italian) word calamari.

Individual species of squid are found abundantly in certain areas, and provide large catches for fisheries.

The body of squid can be stuffed whole, cut into flat pieces or sliced into rings. The arms, tentacles and ink are also edible; in fact, the only parts of the squid that are not eaten are its beak and gladius (pen).


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