AskDefine | Define squid

Dictionary Definition



1 (Italian cuisine) squid prepared as food [syn: calamari, calamary]
2 widely distributed fast-moving ten-armed cephalopod mollusk having a long tapered body with triangular tail fins [also: squidding, squidded]

User Contributed Dictionary




Unknown. Perhaps related to squirt


  • /skwɪd/
  • Rhymes: -ɪd


  1. Any of several carnivorous marine cephalopod mollusks, of the order Teuthida, having a mantle, eight arms, and a pair of tentacles
  2. In the context of "mildly|pejorative": A sailor in the Navy.


sea animal

Extensive Definition

Squid are a large, diverse group of marine cephalopods. Like all cephalopods, squid are distinguished by having a distinct head, bilateral symmetry, a mantle, and arms. Squid, like cuttlefish, have eight arms and two tentacles arranged in pairs.

Modification from ancestral forms

Squid have differentiated from their ancestral mollusks in such a way that the body plan has been condensed antero-posteriorly and extended dorso-ventrally. What before may have been the foot of the ancestor is now modified into a complex set of tentacles and highly developed sense organs, including advanced eyes similar to those of vertebrates.
The shell of the ancestor has been lost, with only an internal gladius, or pen, remaining.


The main body mass of the squid is enclosed in the mantle, which has a swimming fin along each side. It should be noted that these fins, unlike in other marine organisms, are not the main source of ambulation in most species. The skin of the squid is covered in chromatophores, which enable the squid to change color to suit its surroundings. The underside of the squid is also found to be lighter than the topside, in order to provide camouflage from both prey and predator.
Under the body are openings to the mantle cavity, which contains the gills (ctenidia) and openings to the excretory and reproductive systems. At the front of the mantle cavity lies the siphon, which the squid uses for locomotion via precise jet propulsion. This is done by sucking water into the mantle cavity and quickly expelling it out of the siphon in a fast, strong jet. The direction of the siphon can be changed in order to suit the direction of travel.
Inside the mantle cavity, beyond the siphon, lies the visceral mass of the squid, which is covered by a thin, membranous epidermis. Under this are all the major internal organs of the squid.

Nervous system

The giant axon of the squid, which may be up to 1 mm in diameter, innervates the mantle and controls part of the jet propulsion system.

Reproductive system

In female squid, the ink sac is hidden from view by a pair of white nidamental glands, which lie anterior to the gills. There are also red-spotted accessory nidamental glands. Both of these organs are associated with manufacture of food supplies and shells for the eggs. Females also have a large translucent ovary, situated towards the posterior of the visceral mass.
Male squid do not possess these organs, but instead have a large testis in place of the ovary, and a spermatophoric gland and sac. In mature males, this sac may contain spermatophores, which are placed inside the mantle of the female during mating.

Digestive system

Squid, like all cephalopods, have complex digestive systems. Food is transported into a muscular stomach, found roughly in the midpoint of the visceral mass. The bolus is then transported into the caecum for digestion. The caecum, a long, white organ, is found next to the ovary or testis. In mature squid, more priority is given to reproduction and so the stomach and caecum often shrivel up during the later stages of life. Finally, food goes to the liver (or digestive gland), found at the siphon end of the squid, for absorption. Solid waste is passed out of the rectum. Beside the rectum is the ink sac, which allows a squid to discharge a black ink into the mantle cavity at short notice.

Cardiovascular system

Squid have three hearts. Two branchial hearts, feeding the gills, each surrounding the larger systemic heart that pumps blood around the body. The hearts have a faint greenish appearance and are surrounded by the renal sacs - the main excretory system of the squid. The kidneys are faint and difficult to identify and stretch from the hearts (located at the posterior side of the ink sac) to the liver. The systemic heart is made of three chambers, a lower ventricle and two upper auricles.


The head end of the squid bears 8 arms and 2 tentacles, each a form of muscular hydrostat containing many suckers along the edge. These tentacles do not grow back if severed. In the mature male squid, one basal half of the left ventral tentacle is hectocotylised — and ends in a copulatory pad rather than suckers. It is used for intercourse between mature males and females.
The mouth of the squid is equipped with a sharp horny beak mainly made of chitin and cross-linked proteins, and is used to kill and tear prey into manageable pieces. The beak is very robust, but does not contain any minerals, unlike the teeth and jaws of many other organisms, including marine species. Captured whales often have squid beaks in their stomachs, the beak being the only indigestible part of the squid. The mouth contains the radula (the rough tongue common to all molluscs except bivalvia and aplacophora).
The eyes, found on either side of the head, each contain a hard lens. The lens is focused by moving, much like the lens of a camera or telescope, rather than changing shape like a human eye.


The majority of squid are no more than 60 cm long, although the giant squid may reach 13 m in length. In 2003, a large specimen of an abundant but poorly understood species, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni (the Colossal Squid), was discovered. This species may grow to 14 m in length, making it the largest invertebrate. It also possesses the largest eyes in the animal kingdom. Giant squid are often featured in literature and folklore with a frightening connotation. The Kraken is a legendary tentacled monster possibly based on sightings of real giant squid.
In February 2007, a Colossal Squid weighing 495 kg (1,091 lb) and measuring around 10 metres (33 ft) in length was caught by a New Zealand fishing vessel off the coast of Antarctica.


Squid are members of the class Cephalopoda, subclass Coleoidea, order Teuthida, of which there are two major suborders, Myopsina and Oegopsina (including the giant squids like Architeuthis dux). Teuthida is the largest of the cephalopod orders, edging out the octopuses (order Octopoda) for total number of species, with 298 classified into 28 families.
The order Teuthida is a member of the superorder Decapodiformes (from the Greek for "ten legs"). Two other orders of decapodiform cephalopods are also called squid, although they are taxonomically distinct from Teuthida and differ recognizably in their gross anatomical features. They are the bobtail squid of order Sepiolida and the Ram's Horn Squid of the monotypic order Spirulida. The Vampire Squid, however, is more closely related to the octopuses than to any of the squid.

As food

Many species of squid are popular as food in cuisines as diverse as Korean and Italian. In English-speaking countries, it is often known by the name calamari. Individual species of squid are found abundantly in certain areas and provide large catches for fisheries. The body can be stuffed whole, cut into flat pieces or sliced into rings. The arms, tentacles and ink are also edible; in fact, the only parts of the squid that are not eaten are its beak and gladius (pen).

In popular culture

see also Giant squid in popular culture The giant squid is featured in Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, in which one attacks Captain Nemo's ship, the Nautilus. It is also featured in the Harry Potter series, where it is friendly rather than dangerous.
squid in Arabic: حبار
squid in Min Nan: Jiû-hî
squid in Bulgarian: Калмар
squid in Catalan: Calamar
squid in Czech: Krakatice
squid in German: Kalmare
squid in Spanish: Teuthida
squid in Persian: سرپاور
squid in French: Calmar
squid in Korean: 오징어
squid in Indonesian: Cumi-cumi
squid in Ido: Kalmaro
squid in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Calamar
squid in Italian: Calamaro
squid in Georgian: კალმარები
squid in Lithuanian: Kalmarai
squid in Dutch: Pijlinktvis
squid in Japanese: イカ
squid in Narom: Cônet
squid in Polish: Kałamarnice
squid in Portuguese: Lula
squid in Russian: Кальмар
squid in Simple English: Squid
squid in Slovak: Kalmary
squid in Tagalog: Pusit
squid in Turkish: kalamar
squid in Chinese: 鱿鱼
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