Hawaiian Pelagic Cephalopods

Part of our ongoing work in Hawaiis an effort to collect and identify floating dead cephalopods (squid or octopus) that we find during our field efforts, with the goal of determining which species are available and potential prey for cetaceans and seabirds. Many of the specimens we find are likely brought up to the surface by deep-diving cetaceans, including beaked whales, short-finned pilot whalessperm whales, and dwarf and pygmy sperm whales, occasionally evidenced by tooth rakes or tears on the animal. We often find these cephalopods using the presence of scavenging birds, but occasionally they are just spotted in the water next to the boat, or sometimes in association with encounters with deep divers. We also obtain specimens from citizen science contributors — other boaters who find and collect specimens for the study. All the specimens are sent to William Walker at the Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle, Washington, for identification and for preservation of samples, which may be used at a later time for studies of population genetics or examination of trophic ecology. Some of the results on this work in relation to cephalopods and seabirds have been presented as a poster at a conference of the Pacific Seabird Group. 

Since we first started collecting cephalopods in 2006 we’ve collected over 130 specimens of more than 20 different species, and have also received dozens of specimens for this study from boaters who have found them and contributed them. Almost all (>120) have been collected off Hawaii Island – only 10 have been collected elsewhere (1 off Kauai, 1 off Lãnai, and 8 off O‘ahu). This is likely due to the much deeper water found closer to shore off Hawai‘i Island, but also reflects that deep-divers like beaked whales, short-finned pilot whales and dwarf sperm whales are resident off that island.

If you find any floating dead squid or octopus carcasses, we would value their contribution to our research! Any squid or octopus found should be collected and placed on ice or frozen. Once collected, call Robin Baird at 425-879-0360 and we can arrange pickup (depending on the island) or shipping to the mainland. 

Above: A Kermadec Petrel takes off after scavenging on a specimen of Onykia sp. A, an as yet undescribed deep-water species. 

For more information contact Robin W. Baird at rwbaird (at) cascadiaresearch.org or see our Hawai‘i odontocete research page

The species we’ve documented in Hawai’i are listed below – click on a name for photos of each species (we are still adding some species) – all photos are taken in Hawaiian waters:

Cycloteuthis akimushkini Cycloteuthis sirventi Discoteuthis laciniosa
Onychoteuthis sp. Onykia sp. A Walvisteuthis youngorum
Taonius belone Architeuthis sp. (Giant Squid) Octopoteuthis nielseni
Taningia danae (Dana Octopus Squid) Pholidoteuthis massyae Chiroteuthis picteti
Grimalditeuthis bonplandi Enoploteuthis reticulata Histioteuthis cerasina
Histioteuthis oceani Stigmatoteuthis hoylei (Flowervase Jewel Squid) Mastigoteuthis sp. (Whip-lash Squid)
Haliphron atlanticus (Seven-arm Octopus) Japatella diaphana Ocythoe tuberculata (Tuberculate Pelagic Octopus; Football Octopus)
Tremoctopus violaceaus (Common Blanket Octopus)    

Cycloteuthis sirventi

Cycloteuthis sirventi is one of the more common species we’ve found, having collected a dozen specimens between 2008 and 2017. This species is known to be consumed by melon-headed whales, pygmy killer whales, and Cuvier’s beaked whales (West et al. 2009, 2017, 2018). 

Discoteuthis laciniosa

We’ve only collected one Discoteuthis laciniosa in the past, in November 2006.

Onychoteuthis sp. 

We’ve collect four Onychoteuthis sp. in the past, in April 2010, October 2011, July 2016 and October 2017.

Onykia sp. A

Onykia sp. A is an as-yet-undescribed species of Onykia. We’ve collected 11 specimens of this species over the years, including two in one day (in November 2019).

Walvisteuthis youngorum

We’ve collected 14 specimens of Walvisteuthis youngorum, but seven of those were collected in one year (2011). One of the specimens was collected in association with false killer whales.

Taonius belone

We’ve collected four specimens of Taonius belone, one each in July 2010, May 2011, October 2013 and October 2017. This species is known to be consumed by Cuvier’s beaked whales (West et al. 2017).

Architeuthis sp. (Giant Squid)

One of our more exciting finds, we collected this specimen of Architeuthis in August 2007. Although part of the mantle was missing, the tentacle length was 3.4 m, and the mantle was estimated at 0.9 m, bringing the total length of this specimen to 4.3 m (14′).

Octopoteuthis nielseni

We’ve collected just one specimen of Octopoteuthis nielseni, off O’ahu in November 2017. This species is known to be consumed by both melon-headed whales and pygmy sperm whales in Hawaiian waters (West et al. 2009, 2018).

Taningia danae (Dana Octopus Squid)

We’ve collected three Taningia danae, one in October 2009 and two in October 2011. This species is known to be consumed by melon-headed whales in Hawaiian waters (West et al. 2018).

Pholidoteuthis massyae

We’ve collected one Pholidoteuthis massyae, in April 2009. This species is known to be consumed by melon-headed whales, rough-toothed dolphins, and Cuvier’s beaked whales (West et al. 2017, 2018; Shaff and Baird submitted).

Chiroteuthis picteti

We’ve collected Chiroteuthis picteti five times in Hawaiian waters, and two more that are thought to be this species. This species is known to be consumed by melon-headed whales in Hawaiian waters (West et al. 2018), and we’ve collected one specimen of Chiroteuthis in the vicinity of dwarf sperm whales in Hawai’i.

Grimalditeuthis bonplandi

We’ve collected two Grimalditeuthis bonplandi, one in December 2008 and one in July 2014.

Enoploteuthis reticulata

We’ve only collected one Enoploteuthis reticulata, off Hawai’i Island in August 2007.

Histioteuthis cerasina

We’ve collected five Histioteuthis cerasina over the years, one off O’ahu and four off Hawai’i Island. 

Stigmatoteuthis hoylei (Flowervase Jewel Squid)

Stigmatoteuthis hoylei is by far the most frequently collected species in Hawai’i, representing about 1/3 of all the cephalopods we’ve collected, and we’ve collected them off Kaua’i and O’ahu as well as Hawai’i Island. This species is known to be part of the diet of melon-headed whales, pygmy sperm whales, Cuvier’s beaked whales, and short-finned pilot whales (West et al. 2009, 2017, 2018).

Haliphron atlanticus (Seven-arm Octopus)

We’ve collected five Haliphron atlanticus, one off Lãna‛i (the only cephalopod we’ve collected in the Maui Nui area), and four off Hawaii‛ Island. One of the specimens was collected near short-finned pilot whales.

Ocythoe tuberculata (Tuberculate Pelagic Octopus; Football Octopus)

We’ve only collected one Ocythoe tuberculata, off O’ahu in November 2017. This species is known to be in the diet of pygmy sperm whales in Hawai’i (West et al. 2009).

Tremoctopus violaceaus (Common Blanket Octopus)

We’ve only collected one Tremoctopus violaceaus, in November 2011, and it was in a number of pieces!

For some references on diet of odontocetes in Hawaiian waters, check out these:

  • West, K.L., W.A. Walker, R.W. Baird, D.L. Webster and G.S. Schorr. 2018. Stomach contents and diel diving behavior of melon-headed whales (Peponocephala electra) in Hawaiian waters. Marine Mammal Science doi: 10.1111/mms.12507. Download PDF copy
  • West,  K. L., W. A. Walker, R. W. Baird, J. G. Mead, P. W. Collins. 2017. Diet of Cuvier’s beaked whales Ziphius cavirostris from the North Pacific and a comparison with their diet world-wide. Marine Ecology Progress Series doi:  https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12214Download PDF copy
  • West, K.L., W.A. Walker, R.W. Baird, W. White, G. Levine, E. Brown and D. Schofield. 2009. Diet of pygmy sperm whales (Kogia breviceps) in the Hawaiian Archipelago. Marine Mammal Science 25:931-943. Download PDF copy
  • Schaff, J.F., and R.W. Baird. Submitted. Diel and lunar variation in diving behavior of rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis) off Kaua’i, Hawai’i. Unpublished manuscript. 

Click here to return to the list of Hawaiian Cephalopods

Click here to return to the Hawaiian Cetacean Studies Page