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Sepioteuthis lessoniana (Family Loliginidae)

Northern Calamary, Bigfin Reef Squid


Widespread in the tropical Indo-Pacific region from Hawaii to the Red Sea. It is likely that more than one species is being treated under this name. (WA, NT, QLD, NSW)


A moderate to large muscular squid that reaches at least 45 cm in length. A pair of fins extends along the entire length of the body, combining to form a pear shape, wider towards the rear of the body. There are eight arms and two extendable feeding tentacles. The arms and tips of the feeding tentacles have suckers with a horny, toothed rim. The shell consists of a thin transparent feather-shaped structure. Colour ranges from yellow-green to orange-brown, often with numerous short white stripes across the body. The skin is smooth.

Ecology/Way of Life:

This squid occurs in shallow coastal waters to depths of around 100 metres, typically around coral reefs and seagrass meadows. It is mainly active at night, feeding on fish, prawns and other crustaceans. Juveniles form schools, often near the surface hanging under floating vegetation or buoys. Larger animals tend to be more solitary, perhaps due to high levels of cannibalism. These squid often approach the backs of boats or piers at night, attracted to the lights. The main defences are high speed jetting and ink squirting but they are also capable of camouflage and some mimicry. One individual was observed hiding amongst a group of garden eels by hanging vertically in the water and bending extended arms to look like the head end of the emerged eels.

Breeding animals have elaborate courtship and territorial displays where males will fight off challengers to guarantee access to a particular female. Mating consists of the male passing sperm packets into the female's gill cavity. The lower left arm of adult males has a double row of skin fingers, presumably used in mating. Females lay clumps of fleshy finger-like strings of eggs on to corals, mangrove roots, stones and sunken timber. The white egg strings contain up to seven eggs per string. Squid treated under this name in Okinawa have only two eggs per string and may represent a different species. Breeding aggregations can form in some areas where many females lay their eggs together.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

This squid (or group of squids) is harvested on a large scale in both subsistence and commercial fisheries throughout its range, particularly in south-east Asia. It is captured using lures, jigs, baited lines, spears, set nets, traps and bottom trawls.

Further Reading:

Dunning, M.C. 1998. Family Loliginidae. Pp. 764-780. In: Carpenter, K.E. and V.H. Niem (eds). The Living Marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 2: Cephalopods, crustaceans, holothurians and sharks. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. Pp. 688-1396.

Norman, M.D. 2000. Cephalopods: A world guide. ConchBooks, Hackenheim, Germany.


Text, map and photographs by Mark Norman, Museum Victoria.

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