Cephalo-fun at the Seattle Aquarium

As we finish up Octopus Week, February 18–26, we thought we’d share the love with a couple amazing relatives of the giant Pacific octopus.

Cephalo-fun at the Seattle Aquarium

Stubby squid, Rossia pacifica

Winter is the best season for recreational divers to spot the stubby squid. During summer, it moves to deeper water to reproduce, but in the winter it inhabits the shallows. Even so, these animals can be hard to find, burying themselves in the sand as they wait for shrimp to ambush.

One thing that sets these unique animals apart from the cephalopod crowd: despite their names, they’re not squid. They belong to the order Sepiolida, which is more closely related to the order Sepiida (cuttlefish) than to the order Teuthida (squid). Like cuttlefish and squid, stubby squid do have eight arms plus two tentacles.

Cephalo-fun at the Seattle Aquarium

Pacific red octopus, Octopus rubescens

A Pacific red octopus, on the other hand, is definitely an octopus. It belongs to the order Octopoda, along with hundreds of other octopus species. This particular species is the much-smaller cousin of the giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini). A Pacific red octopus typically grows to no more than 1.5 pounds and a 20-inch arm span during its two-year life span.

Pacific red octopuses are sometimes mistaken for baby giant Pacific octopuses, but there are some clues to help you tell the difference:

  • Pacific red octopuses have “eyelashes,” three small projections called papillae under each eye.
  • Despite its name, the Pacific red octopus is typically less red in color than a giant Pacific octopus, tending toward a more brown/grey palette
  • While giant Pacific octopuses tend to have paddle-shaped skin projections, those of the Pacific red octopus are more rounded.


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