12 Examples of Cephalopods (Pictures)

While you might not be familiar with the term “cephalopod”, you are probably familiar with some of the animals that fall into this category of highly specialized mollusks. In this article, we’ll be looking at 12 different examples of cephalopods. Check out this article to learn about the four main types of cephalopods.

But first, let’s define cephalopod.

What is a cephalopod?

The word for cephalopod in greek means “feet-head”. This group of invertebrates has arms or tentacles attached to their head, officially referred to as mantle. They are strictly marine organisms and therefore can only be found in saltwater. They are regarded as the most intelligent invertebrates and there have been several studies dedicated to exploring cephalopod intelligence. In fact, octopuses have several brains!

Cephalopods tend to be excellent hunters, using fast moving strikes of their arms and tentacles to ambush their prey. In presence of a threat, all but the nautiluses may expel a thick cloud of dark ink to distract predators. This has earned them the name “inkfish” with fishermen.

These incredible animals are also masters in camouflage and can change their colors and patterns to expertly blend in with their surroundings. Some have such good control over their ability to change colors that they can change on only one portion of their body, displaying two or more different patterns at a time.

With that being said, let’s have a look at a list of cephalopods!

12 Examples of cephalopods

1. Giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini)

The Giant Pacific octopus gets its name for its large size as well as their distribution within the northern Pacific ocean. They tend to grow up to ~35 pounds with an arm span of around 14 feet, however some very large individuals have weighed over 100 pounds and had arm spans of nearly 20 feet. While they can change colors, they are well known for being shades of deep red or orange.


2. Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas)

Humboldt squid are a large species of squid, with their mantle growing to be over four feet long. They tend to stick to deeper water and are most common in depths between 660 and 2,300 feet. Humboldt squid have been known to show aggression towards divers, but this is typically only during feeding. They are native to the eastern Pacific Ocean.


3. Pharaoh cuttlefish (Sepia pharaonis)

image by Schristia via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

The Pharaoh cuttlefish is a commonly encountered species in the Persian gulf, however it can also be found in coastal areas of Asia, Southeast Asia and Australia. They feed on small fish, crabs and even other cuttlefish. They are also commonly caught and eaten in parts of their range.


4. Chambered nautilus (Nautilus pompilius)

image by Aaron Gustafson via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Chambered nautiluses, also known as Pearly nautiluses are the most well known of the nautiluses. The inside of their shell has a shiny, iridescent finish which has led to the overexploitation of them for the use of jewelry and crafts. They are native to the South Pacific.


5. Glass squid (Family Cranchiidae)

There are around 60 species of glass squid ranging in size from around four inches to nearly ten feet. The squids in this group share a similar characteristic and that is their translucent, almost glass like mantle. The transparency allows them to blend in with their surroundings and hide from predators and sneak up on prey.

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6. Blue ringed octopus (Hapalochlaena spp.)

There are four species of Blue ringed octopus, all of which possess a deadly venom,

making them some of the most dangerous animals in the world. They are small in comparison to some of their relatives, growing to around 5-8 inches. They specialize in shallow waters and can often be found in tide pools in the south Pacific.


7. Giant squid (Architeuthis dux)

The Giant squid certainly is something that seems like it could be from a sci-fi movie, and the first ever specimen wasn’t even photographed in its habitat until 2004. They get their name for their incredible size, with some individuals growing to be as large as 30-40 feet in length, including their tentacles. Giant squid occur in all of the world’s oceans but are deep sea specialists, which is part of the reason that they are rarely encountered and mysterious.


8. Giant cuttlefish (Sepia apama)

image by Adrian Mohedano via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Giant cuttlefish are the largest species of cuttlefish, however they are hardly giant compared to their relatives! These cephalopods have a mantle that can be as long as 20 inches and can weigh up to 20+ pounds. They are found along the coast of southern Australia and live on coral reefs, seagrass beds and sandy shoals.


9. Dumbo octopus (Grimpoteuthis spp.)

image by NOAA Ocean Exploration & Research via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

There are 15 species of octopuses that can be considered Dumbo octopuses. They get their name for their resemblance to the Disney character from the movie “Dumbo”. These molluscs are some of the deepest water dwelling of their kind, and can be found in water as deep as 7,000 meters! They inhabit oceans worldwide.


10. Colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni)

Not to be confused with the elusive Giant squid, the Colossal squid is the largest species of squid by mass, sometimes weighing as much as 1,000 pounds or more. They can grow to be a total length of 30-33 feet, putting them just behind the great lengths of their giant cousins. They are thought to inhabit nearly the entire Southern or Antarctic ocean.


11. Flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi)

The Flamboyant cuttlefish likely gets its name from it’s interesting arm and mantle shapes. They have wide, oval shaped mantles with very flat, paddle-like arms. Flamboyant cuttlefish are only small, and tend to have a mantle length of not much longer than three inches. They have a restricted distribution and are only found off the coast of southern Australia.


12. Striped pyjama squid (Sepioloidea lineolata)

image by wenfisher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Funnily enough, the Striped pyjama squid is not actually a squid but a species of cuttlefish. They get their name from their distinct striped patterning of brown and white stripes. They are both venomous and poisonous, so best to steer clear of these cephalopods! Despite their toxicity, they are only a mere seven to eight centimeters. These molluscs can be found in the Indo-Pacific.


Samantha S.

Samantha is an outdoor enthusiast and studying to get her masters degree in Environmental Biology. Her research focuses on snakes, sharks, and rays but she is knowledgeable about wildlife of all types.