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Ornithoteuthis Okada 1927

Bird squid

Richard E. Young and Michael Vecchione
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taxon links [up-->]Ornithoteuthis antillarum [up-->]Ornithoteuthis volatilis [down<--]Ommastrephinae Interpreting the tree
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Containing group: Ommastrephinae


These are relatively small (about 100-200 mm ML) and highly agile ommastrephids that do not seem to be common anywhere. Their taxonomic characteristics are very different from other members of the subfamily.

Brief diagnosis:

An ommastrephin ...


  1. Tentacles
    1. Arms tips in subadults not unusually attenuate; arms I with 25-30 pairs of suckers (Wormuth, 1976).
    2. Carpal locking-apparatus absent from tentacles (unique in subfamily).
    3. Largest club suckers with ca. 20 uniform, broadly spaced, small teeth (unique in subfamily).
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    Figure. Oral view of the inner sucker ring of a large club sucker from Ornithoteuthis volitalis. Drawing from Roeleveld (1988).

  2. Funnel
    1. Mantle component of the funnel/mantle locking-apparatus without anterior bifurcation.
    2. Funnel groove with foveola, with or without side pockets.

  3. Mantle
    1. Mantle slender, drawn out into narrow tail (unique in subfamily).

  4. Fins
    1. Fins narrowly drawn out along tail.

  5. Photophores
    1. Small subcutaneous photophores absent. Absence of large or small subcutaneous unique in subfamily).
    2. Luminous patch present on ventral surface of each eye.
    3. Visceral photophores present: two intestinal photophores and an elongate luminous stripe along midline on viscera (unique in family).
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    Figure. Photophores of Ornithoteuthis antillarum. Left - Ventral view of the mantle cavity of showing the visceral photophores. Left arrow points to an elongate luminous strip. Right two arrows point to intestinal photophores. Note that the anterior visceral photophore appears to have a different structure than the posterior one. Right - Ventral view of the head of the same squid showing the ocular photophore on the right eye. Photographs by M. Vecchione.


Comparison of species (Dunning, 1998):

  Sexual dimorphism, arm sucker dentition  Hectocotylus: number of longitudinal series of depressions  Hectocotylus: number of depressions per transverse row 
O. volatilis  No  2-3
IndoPacific, eastern tropical Atlantic
O. antillarum  Yes  4-5
Western tropical Atlantic 
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Figure. Ventrolateral and oral views of the hectocotylus of Ornithoteuthis spp. Top - O. volatilis. Drawing from Roeleveld (1988). Bottom - O. antillarum. Drawing from Voss (1957). Unfortunately the specific differences in hectocotylus structure are not well illustrated by these figures.


Circumglobal, but irregular, distribution in tropical and subtropical waters.


Dunning, M. C. 1998. A Review of the systematics, distribution, and biology of the arrow squid genera Ommastrephes Orbigny, 1835, Sthenoteuthis Verrill, 1880, and Ornithoteuthis Okada, 1927 (Cephalopoda: Ommastrephidae). Smiths. Contr. Zool., No. 586: 425-433.

Roeleveld, M. A. 1988. Generic interrelationships within the Ommastrephidae (Cephalopoda). P.277-314. In: M. R. Clarke and E. R. Trueman (eds.). The Mollusca. Vol. 12. Paleontology and Neontology of Cephalopods. Academic Press, N.Y., 355pp.

Sasaki, M. 1929. A Monograph of the Dibranchiate Cephalopods of the Japanese and Adjacent Waters. Journal of the College of Agriculture, Hokkaido Imperial University, 20(supplement):357 pages.

Voss, G.L. 1957. Observations on Ornithoteuthis antillarum adam, 1957. An ommastrephid ssquid from the West Indies. Bulletin of Marine Science of the Gulf and Caribbean, 7(4):370-378.

Title Illustrations
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Scientific Name Ornithoteuthis volitalis
Specimen Condition Fresh
View Dorsal
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About This Page

University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, USA

National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D. C. , USA

Page: Tree of Life Ornithoteuthis Okada 1927. Bird squid. Authored by Richard E. Young and Michael Vecchione. The TEXT of this page is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License - Version 3.0. Note that images and other media featured on this page are each governed by their own license, and they may or may not be available for reuse. Click on an image or a media link to access the media data window, which provides the relevant licensing information. For the general terms and conditions of ToL material reuse and redistribution, please see the Tree of Life Copyright Policies.

Citing this page:

Young, Richard E. and Michael Vecchione. 2009. Ornithoteuthis Okada 1927. Bird squid. Version 29 November 2009 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Ornithoteuthis/19942/2009.11.29 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

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