Taxonomy, ecology and behaviour of the cirrate octopods

The cirrate octopods are deep-sea, cold-adapted cephalopod molluscs that are found throughout the world's oceans, usually at depths in excess of 300 m, but shallower in cold water at high latitudes. The gelatinous bodies of the cirrates, which deform when preserved, coupled with low capture rates have caused considerable confusion in the systematics of the group. The taxonomically relevant morphological features are briefly reviewed and the taxonomy revised. On the basis of morphological and molecular information the cirrates are divided into four families, the Cirroteuthidae (including the genera Cirroteuthis, Cirrothauma and Stauroteuthis), Cirroctopodidae (Cirroctopus), Grimpoteuthidae (Cryptoteuthis, Grimpoteuthis and Luteuthis) and Opisthoteuthidae (Opisthoteuthis). A total of 45 species are recognised. The opisthoteuthids are primarily benthic animals, the grimpoteuthids and cirroctopodids benthopelagic and the cirroteuthids essentially pelagic, but generally close to the sea floor. With the exception of two common, shallow, Opisthoteuthis species, the biology of the cirrates is poorly studied. The data on reproductive biology indicate that spawning is extended, with growth continuing during a reproductive period that probably occupies much of the life cycle, an unusual strategy in cephalopods. Diet studies suggest that benthic cirrates feed on small-sized organisms with low swimming speeds and the main prey are amphipods and polychaetes. Cirrate predators include sharks, teleost fishes, fur seals and sperm whales. Behavioural observations, based on underwater photographs, submersible observations and aquarium studies, show a range of postures, modes of locomotion and responses to disturbance that differ between the families. Behavioural observations also help interpret the unusual morphology and physiology of the cirrates, such as the use of cirri, fins, secondary web and bioluminescent emissions


Publication status:
Authors: Collins, Martin A. ORCIDORCID record for Martin A. Collins, Villaneuva, Roger

Editors: Gibson, R.N., Atkinson, R.J.A., Gordon, J.D.M.

On this site: Martin Collins
1 January, 2006
In: Gibson, R.N., Atkinson, R.J.A., Gordon, J.D.M. (eds.). Oceanography and marine biology: an annual review, vol. 44, London, Taylor and Francis, 277-322.