Introducing California Market Squid

Fast Facts

  • Common name: California Market Squid
  • Scientific name: Doryteuthis (Loligo) opalescens
  • Size: 3mm at hatching to 152mm (6 inches) full grown
  • Lifespan: 6-10 months

Introduction

There are about 750 recognized species of squid. Today (and for the next several weeks), we’ll be focusing on just one: Doryteuthis opalescence. Commonly called the California market squid, this species is found in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, ranging from southeastern Alaska to Baja California, Mexico. In the United States, they are the most abundant off the coast of Monterey Bay, CA. 

Characteristics

Just like all other types of squid, the market squid has well-developed eyes, a strong beak, two fins, eight arms, and two longer tentacles that are used for feeding. Their bodies have an iridescent color that’s often described as milky white and purple, but it looks different under different environmental conditions conditions. They also have an ink sac that is used as a form of defense: the squid releases ink, which confuses the predator, giving the squid time to escape.

Life history

Market squid are fast growing animals that live only about nine months. They are terminal spawners, meaning they reproduce only at the end of their life cycle. During spawning, the squid congregate in large schools, typically over sandy bottoms. Females are capable of producing about 20 egg capsules, which contain about 200 eggs each, and are attached to the seafloor. The eggs take weeks to months (22 to 90 days) to hatch, depending on environmental conditions.

In general, squid are very sensitive to changing ocean conditions at all stages at all stages of life. This season, for example, fishermen are catching very few because the squid don’t thrive in El Niño conditions. El Niño events occur when sea surface temperatures are significantly warmer than average for three or more months. 

Food Web

They eat krill, small fish and crustaceans, and other small squid. They’re eaten by many fish, seabirds, and marine mammals mammals. 

Market squid. Photo credit: John Hyde, NOAA SWFSC.

Market squid. Photo credit: John Hyde, NOAA SWFSC.