Stauroteuthis syrtensis

Geographic Range

This species has been frequently observed in waters off the continental shelf of eastern North America, but has also been found in locations in the northeastern Atlantic. (Collins and Henriques, 2000; Collins, 2002; Collins and Henriques, 2000; Collins, 2002)


Stauroteuthis syrtensis is described as "benthopelagic" -- being found in open water, but near the bottom. and can be found in depths of the ocean ranging from 500-4000m. This large range seems to relate to water temperature. Stauroteuthis syrtensis prefers a temperature of 3.0 - 3.3 degrees Celsius. (Collins and Henriques, 2000; Collins, 2002)

  • Range depth
    250 to 4000 m
    820.21 to 13123.36 ft
  • Average depth
    2000 m
    6561.68 ft

Physical Description

This species belongs to the cirrate octopods, distinguished by fins used for swimming, an internal shell (to which the fins attach) and cirri, paired filaments or papillae, on each sucker. Like other species in the Stauroteuthidae, S. syrtensis has a u-shaped internal shell, and secondary webbing that connects the arms to the primary web. This allows the arms to move inwards towards the mouth without collapsing the large bell-shaped web of skin that forms around arms. The web covers nearly two thirds of their total length ending at sucker 25, with each arm bearing between 55 to 65 suckers. The average arm length is about 70-85% of its total length with total lengths ranging from 280-500mm.

The body of these animals is soft and gelatinous, and is often heavily damaged in trawls and collections. It is often found hanging in the water with its webbed arms forming a bell shape. There are large glands near the mouth that may produce mucous to trap small prey animals.

Males have sexually dimorphic suckers. The first 8 suckers are barrel shaped, suckers 9 to 22-25 are enlarged and pointed. Suckers 9 to 12 are very closely packed and suckers 13 to 18 are the largest with a diameter of about 6.5 mm. Females have smaller suckers with suckers 1 to 3 as the largest with a diameter of 2.2 mm. Suckers 1 to 4 are very tightly packed, but suckers 5 to 24 are well separated. In both sexes, the suckers diameter decreases dramatically after sucker 25 nearing where the web ends. Both male and females have three kinds of suckers, proximal, mid arm, and distal. This sexual dimorphism in the size and shape of the suckers is unique to the species, and is probably related to sperm transfer or other reproductive activity. (Collins and Henriques, 2000)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes shaped differently
  • Range length
    280 to 500 mm
    11.02 to 19.69 in


Because juvenile specimens have not been found, little is known about how Stauroteuthis syrtensis develops. However, the large size of the eggs suggests direct development. (Collins and Henriques, 2000)


Nothing is known about the mating system or mating behavior of this species.

What little is known about reproduction in Stauroteuthis syrtensis has been has been determined by examining preserved specimens.The male genital system consists of testis, vas deferens, needhams sac, accessory gland, and terminal organ. The seminal vesicle is packed with about 100 spermatophores each with a length of 1-2mm.

The female genitalia are unpaired and consist of a single oviduct (with both proximal and distal portions) and an oviducal gland. The majority of the eggs were less than 1mm, but the largest found were in upwards of 11mm. This larger egg size suggests a more developed maturation stage. The ovary contained about 900 eggs. Eggs were also found in the proximal oviduct maybe ready for fertilization. (Collins and Henriques, 2000; Collins, 2002; Collins, et al., 2008)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding interval unknown.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding season unknown.
  • Range number of offspring
    900 (high)

Because no juvenile specimens have been found, little is known about the parental care of these species.

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female


The longevity of Stauroteuthis syrtensis is unknown.


Staurotheuthis syrtensis have mostly been found in a bell posture with their arms extending and their web spread. In the bell posture, they use their fins to swim. They can also move by expanding their web and then contracting it to expel water and propel them through the ocean. Live animals in the wild have only been found alone, not in groups. (Collins, et al., 2008; Vecchione, 2000)

Communication and Perception

Communication in Stauroteuthis syrtensis has not been observed. The species has large eyes, and is likely sensitive to chemicals and touch.

Stauroteuthis syrtensis are unique among other cirrate octopods in that they have modified suckers that are capable of producing blue-green bioluminescence with a maximum wavelength of 470nm. These modified suckers are unlike other suckers because they are not able to attach. Their use is not well understood, but it is suggested that they may be used to attract prey or be used to attract a mate. (Collins, et al., 2008; Johnsen, et al., 1999)

Food Habits

No specimens have been seen capturing prey, but the stomach of preserved specimens contained small crustaceans, mostly copepods. The bell shape of the web, along with mucus produced by glands around the mouth, maybe be used to capture zooplankton. The bioluminescence of the suckers is also thought to be used to attract prey, but this has not yet been confirmed. (Collins and Henriques, 2000; Johnsen, et al., 1999; Collins and Henriques, 2000; Collins, et al., 2008; Johnsen, et al., 1999)


Because little has been witnessed in the wild about this species, its predators have not been observed. When observed, Staurotheuthis syrtensis is normally in a bell posture. When disturbed though, the animal goes into a balloon posture with the arms closed at the tips. In the balloon posture, the fins remain motionless. Staurotheuthis syrtensis has also been seen in a pumpkin posture when threatened which is like the balloon posture, but smaller. When trying to escape, the Staurotheuthis syrtensis will go back in to the bell posture and move its fins vigorously. (Collins, et al., 2008; Johnsen, et al., 1999)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

S. syrtensis does not appear to have any positive importance for humans at this time.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Stauroteuthis syrtensis on humans.

Conservation Status

The population size of this species is unknown. It has not been evaluated by the IUCN, and is not listed in CITES or under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.


Hye Woo (author), Rutgers University, Michael Grieco (author), Rutgers University, David Howe (editor, instructor), Rutgers University .


Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map


Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Bottom habitats in the very deepest oceans (below 9000 m) are sometimes referred to as the abyssal zone. see also oceanic vent.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


An aquatic biome consisting of the open ocean, far from land, does not include sea bottom (benthic zone).


generates and uses light to communicate


an animal that mainly eats plankton

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)


Collins, M. 2002. Cirrate octopods from Greenland and Iceland waters. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 82: 1035-1036.

Collins, M., C. Henriques. 2000. A revision of the family Stauroteuthidae (Octopoda:Cirrata) with redescriptions of Stauroteuthis syrtensis and S. gilchristi. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 80: 685-697.

Collins, M., R. Young, M. Vecchione. 2008. "Stauroteuthidae Grimpe 1916" (On-line). Tree of Life Web Project. Accessed February 04, 2009 at

Collins, M., R. Young, M. Vecchione. 2002. "Stauroteuthis syrtensis Verrill 1879" (On-line). Tree of Life Web Project. Accessed February 04, 2009 at

Johnsen, S., E. Balser, E. Fischer, A. Widder. 1999. Bioluminescence in the deep-sea cirrate octopod Stauroteuthis syrtensis Verrill (Mollusca: Cephalopoda). Biological Bulletin, 197(1): 26-39.

Vecchione, M., R. Young. 1997. Aspects of the functional morphology of cirrate octopods: locomotion and feeding. Vie et Milieu, 47: 101-110.

Vecchione, M. 2000. "Cephalopods in Action--Vecchione and Young, 1997" (On-line video). Cephalopods at the National Museum of Natural History. Accessed October 10, 2007 at