Octopuses and Squids are both head-footed aquatic animals (cephalopods) but they differ in their physical characteristics, habitat and behavior.

An octopus has a round head and a mantle along with eight arms. The arms are endowed with one or two rows of suckers but these never have hooks or sucker rings. Squids are also cephalopods with a triangular shaped head, a mantle and eight arms. Along with that they have two fins on their head and two tentacles. The arms of a squid are endowed with hooks and/or suckers or sucker rings. The tentacles are arranged in pairs.

Comparison chart

Octopus versus Squid comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartOctopusSquid
Shell Octopi do not have any shell or stiff bone in their body Squid possess a stiff structure known as a pen, which acts like a flexible backbone
About Octopus is a cephalopod with eight arms. It is a head-footed animal Squid is a cephalopod with eight arms and two tentacles arranged in pairs. It is a head-footed animal
Class Cephalopoda Cephalopoda
Phylum Mollusca Mollusca
Anatomy An Octopus has a mantle, a head, 8 arms endowed with 1 or 2 rows of suckers but no hooks or sucker rings A standard Squid has 2 fins, a mantle, a head, 8 arms and 2 tentacles each endowed with hooks and/or suckers or sucker rings
Arms and tentacles Octopuses have arms, not tentacles. Tentacles have suckers only at their tips but arms are covered in suckers. Squid and cuttlefish have a combination of arms and tentacles.
Kingdom Animalia Animalia
Order Octopoda Teuthida
Fins Most octopi do not have fins, though some deep water octopuses may be the exceptions. Squid have 2 fins on their heads
Superorder Octopodiformes Decapodiformes
Live in Octopi live in dens on the sea floor Squid live in the open oceans
Lifespan 1 to 3 years 9 months to 5 years
Sub Class Coleoidea Coleoidea
Diet Octopi eat bottom dwelling Crustaceans. Squid eat fish and shrimp.
Blood Blue Blue
Size Octopuses range in size from 1cm to more than 5m Average Squid no more than 60cm Giant one up to 13m, some reported even 20m (66ft.)
Species 300 298
Nature Octopi are solitary in nature and always live alone Squid maybe solitary or may live in schools
Catching and Eating Their Prey Octopi grab their prey and pierce through its shell and inject paralyzing venom into it. Dissolves and loosens meat with saliva Squid catch food with their two long tentacles and eat it in chunks.
Geographical Distribution In salty water of the tropics to the temperate zones. In salty water of the tropics to the temperate zones.
Plural Octopodes/Octopi/Octopuses Squid (when referring to a collective); Squids (when referring to 2 or more species of squid)

Anatomical Differences


Because they have no internal skeleton, octopi's bodies are very soft. The only hard part on a an octopus body is its beak, which is made of chitin. This beak is used to eat prey.

In a squid, the main body mass is enclosed in the mantle, which has two swimming fins 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.

A giant squid in New Zealand
A giant squid in New Zealand

Both squids and octopi have three hearts each. Two pump blood through the gills, while the third heart is dedicated blood circulation through the body. The blood in both creatures contains a copper-rich protein known as hemocyanin. Both creatures have similar, though not identical, organ systems.

Difference in Size

The majority of squid are no more than 60 cm long, although the giant squid may reach 13 m in length. There have even been claims reported of specimens of up to 20 metres (66 ft).

Octopuses grow in size from upto 1cm to about 5m. They have a short life span and may not live upto more than 4 to 5 years but can grow quite heavy in weight.


Octopuses and squids move by "jet propulsion", sucking water into a muscular sac in the mantle cavity surrounding their bodies and quickly expelling it out a narrow siphon. Octopuses and squids can swim in any direction and can alter their course quickly. Squids use fins located on their heads to propel themselves when swimming at low speeds. These fins steer and stabilize the squids when moving slowly, and wrap around the body when they move quickly, by way of jet propulsion. Most octopuses do not have fins as adults. Some deepwater octopuses are exceptions. The eyes of a Squid, 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.

Finding their prey

Octopuses use their eight sucker-lined arms to capture their prey and move about on the ocean floor. Squids have eight arms lined with suckers and two specialized tentacles that they use to reach out and capture prey. Octopuses pierce the shells of their prey, injecting venom that causes paralysis. They then release salivary enzymes, loosening the meat from the inner shell. Squids use their two specialized tentacles to quickly reach out and capture fishes. They tear off bits of flesh and scrape the meat into their mouths with their beaks.


The male octopus uses a specialized arm called a hectocotylus to transfer sperm to the mantle cavity of a receptive female. The female lays strings of fertilized eggs on the roof of her den. She guards, cleans and aerates the eggs with water expelled from her siphon until hatching—anywhere from 30 days to a year, depending on the species. The female may build a wall of rocks to seal off the den and will remain in the den until just before she dies, after the eggs have hatched. Squids often mate in large groups, and attach their egg capsules to the ocean floor or to seaweed. Most adult octopuses and squid die after reproducing. Their bodies are recycled in the food web, nourishing other animals, and ultimately providing food for their young when they hatch.


An octopus can camouflage by changing not only its color but also its shape and the texture of its skin. The following video shows an octopus changing its color and texture while sleeping, leading to the hypothesis that an octopus can probably dream, and is unconsciously reacting to events in a dream.

Geographical distribution

Squids and octopuses are found in salty water from the tropics to the temperate zones. Many marine populations have plummeted over the past sixty years as oceans have become more polluted and less hospitable. But the number of cephalopods has increased rapidly . This is because cephalopods like squid and octopus have certain biological traits that help them quickly adapt to a changing environment — rapid growth, short lifespans and flexible development. So cephalopods are sometimes called the 'weeds of the sea'.[1]

As Food

Squid Skewers on a street in Hong Kong
Squid Skewers on a street in Hong Kong

On menus, squid may be called calamari. Black pasta is colored using squid ink. The arms, tentacles and ink are also edible; in fact, the only part of the squid that is not eaten is its beak and gladius (pen). Squid rings and arms are often coated in batter and fried in oil. In the Mediterranean, squid or cuttlefish ink is eaten in a variety of dishes such as paella, risotto, soups and pasta. In Chinese and South East Asian cuisine, squid is a common ingredient in a variety of dishes such as stir-fries, rice and noodle dishes.

Many species of octopus are eaten as food by human cultures around the world. Greek restaurants sometimes serve pickled octopus, called octopothi. In Japan, octopus is a common ingredient and is found in dishes, such as sushi and takoyaki. Some small species of octopus are sometimes eaten alive as a novelty and health food (mostly in South Korea). Cooked octopus contains approximately 139 calories per three ounce portion, and is a source of vitamin B3, B12, potassium, phosphorus, and selenium.


Fishers trawl for octopuses using weighted chains that drag along the ocean floor, scaring the octopuses into a net. Another method involves lowering traps and pots which octopuses will use as shelters. Spear fishing and drift fishing are also practiced. Fishers catch squids by jigging. They shine bright lights and drop lines into the water with special lures called jigs, which they jerk up and down, attracting squids to the light and movement. Recently, fishers have begun to use large seine nets that encircle the squids, forming pockets and trapping them.


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