How Many Arms Does A Squid Have? Learn About Their Tentacles

Aryan Khanna
Mar 28, 2023 By Aryan Khanna
Originally Published on Jan 06, 2022
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Amanpreet Kaur
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Lesser bobtail squid underwater.

Squids are one of the four distinct cephalopods, this category of marine animals are believed to be present on Earth for more than 485 million years.

A squid is an invertebrate with a soft body, which is bilaterally symmetrical and like various other cephalopods have a distinct head. Squids are swift swimmers who use their ability of jet propulsion to swim, these animals are largely found in coastal waters as well as in the open ocean.

Squids come in all sizes, some of the biggest squid species include the giant squid and the colossal squid who also happen to be the largest invertebrates.

On the other hand, the Southern pygmy squid is believed to be the smallest squid species, they aren't even the size of a small fish and are hardly an inch long.

Just like octopuses, squids, too, have a number of arms and distinct tentacles which help them in capturing their prey and then controlling it.

As an interesting fact about squids, they are believed to be one of the most intelligent invertebrate animals in the world as it has been noted that the Humboldt squid species often cooperate with each other in hunting.

Squids are an integral part of ocean life, they eat fishes and crustaceans and later become prey to larger predators such as sharks, sperm whales, sea birds and some other large fishes.

Did you know, squids have developed several techniques to protect themselves from becoming easy prey to their predators such as camouflaging and squirting ink.

Some squid species have the ability to produce light of their own and camouflage instantly whereas some other species squirt ink in order to distract their predators and reach a place of safety.

How many arms does a squid have?

The body of a squid is closely related to that of an octopus. The primary body parts of a squid include two eyes which are as complicated as those of humans but are located on the side of its head, a beak, a funnel which is also known as a siphon, eight arms and two tentacles.

The arms and tentacles are perhaps the most important and distinguishing features of a squid, they help it catch prey.

All squid species have eight arms along with two tentacles but most species have arms of varying length, the eight arms of a squid aren't of equal length.

For instance, the colossal squid, which is one of the largest squid species, has arms that are up to 4.9 ft (1.5 m) in length; this is longer than the arm size of most squid species.

These squid arms of great strength, they are quite muscular, in fact, it is the arms of a squid that contain most of its body strength. The arms of a squid are significantly shorter than its two tentacles but a squid's arms have extremely powerful suckers on them.

These suckers are present on the arms as well as the tentacles but the arm suckers are more powerful than the ones present on the tentacles.

The arm suckers are circular in shape and are found all across the arms of a squid.

While attacking prey, it is the longer tentacles that first come into play.

The squid shoots its feeding tentacles towards the prey, these feeding tentacles have numerous suckers on them which have sharp little teeth, they help to get a grip on the prey.

The arms and tentacles then together work in a rhythm to control the prey and bring it to the beak so that it can be cut into smaller consumable pieces.

Now inside the beak of the squid exists the radula which is a tongue-like organ with several tiny teeth on it that further cut the small pieces of the prey.

As a fact about the length of the long tentacles of a squid, some giant squids can even capture prey that are around 33 ft (10 m) away from it.

Do all squids have the same number of arms?

In the animal kingdom, squids, just like octopus, cattle fish and the nautilus fall under the group of cephalopods that have a number of arms. All species of squids and cattle fish have eight arms and two tentacles.

Some categorize the eight arms into six arms and two legs but these eight extensions are significantly shorter than the tentacles and perform a different function from the tentacles.

Even though the number of arms and tentacles are the same in all squids, what changes are the length of these arms.

Each squid has arms of varying lengths with suckers and hooks placed on the entire length for getting a hold of the prey which was initially captured by the squid tentacles.

These tentacles have rotating hooks on them which are quite versatile and make it easier for prey to be captured. These hooks can swivel for complete 360 degrees.

Once the prey is captured and brought to the arm, these arm suckers then allow the squid to hold the prey with one arm and by then the other arms are brought around to get a better grip on the prey.

Additionally, a squid arm also has hooks on it, they aren't the same rotating hooks that are present on the tentacles but they are quite deadly.

Once these arm hooks cling on to prey they are capable of either killing it or severely injuring the animal. Did you know there is a certain squid species that has a typical defensively ability linked with its arms and tentacles?

It is the Octopoteuthids deletron that can detach its own arms and tentacles if needed when it is under attack by some other animals.

The squid doesn't waste any time in releasing its suckers and then its hooks to shake off the predator, it rather detaches its arms and finds a safe place to hide to escape from the danger.

Japanese flying squid near the bottom.

How many tentacles does a squid have?

The body of a squid is divided into three segments, the first is the mantle and the fin which is the main body of a squid, the next is the head and the third segment consists of arms and tentacles of a squid.

This deep-sea creature has a total of two tentacles which are longer than the other eight arms it possesses.

Whether it is giant squids or a regular-sized hooked squid, all of them have the same number of tentacles and they perform a similar function, it is the length of the tentacles which vary with the size of the squid.

For instance, the giant colossal squid which is a type of giant squid has an average tentacle size of 6.9 ft (2.1 m) whereas the length of its arms ranges from 2.8-3.8 ft (0.9-1.2 m).

Like most cephalopods, squids use their tentacles along with the suckers and rotating hooks on them to capture prey.

In the marine world, squids usually feed on fishes that are smaller than their own size. The two rows of rotating hooks on the middle part of the tentacle help to get an initial grip on the fish it is attacking, then the suckers hold on to the prey and bring it closer to the arms.

But unlike squids, the octopus which although is one of the four common cephalopods doesn't have any tentacles, uses its arms which have a double row of suction cups on them.

While attacking an animal, these arms converge at a centralized mouth and form a beak-like that of a parrot.

The suction cups on the arms of an octopus perform the same function that the hooks and suckers perform on the arms and tentacles of a giant squid.

Why do they have hooks on their arms?

In the midsection of each of the eight arms of a squid, there are arm hooks that are set in a double row. The suckers on the other hand are present both below the hooks as well as above the hooks.

These hooks are set in the flesh part of the arm which helps them to remain strongly attached to the arms.

The reason why the hooks need to be strongly attached to the arm is, it is these hooks that are used by most squids to control the prey while it is being killed.

If the hooks aren't strong, the prey can free itself by a strong jerk.

Most of these hooks are three pointed which further help them to be deep-seated into the flesh of the arms. Studies have also shown that the base or the bottom part of each of these hooks has a pretty complex structure that is set very deep into the muscle of the squid.

It is a combined function of the hooks and the suckers which ultimately permits the squid to control its prey, kill it and then eat it.

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Written by Aryan Khanna

Bachelor of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

Aryan Khanna picture

Aryan KhannaBachelor of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

A dedicated and hardworking content writer currently pursuing his Bachelor's in Management Studies from St. Xavier's University, Kolkata. Aryan aims to gain corporate exposure and enhance his skills while creating well-researched and engaging content that is SEO-friendly. Aryan is a talented individual who puts in the effort to overcome any obstacle in his way.

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Fact-checked by Amanpreet Kaur

Bachelor of Business Administration, Masters of Business Administration specializing in Accounting and Finance

Amanpreet Kaur picture

Amanpreet KaurBachelor of Business Administration, Masters of Business Administration specializing in Accounting and Finance

Amanpreet has a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in Business Administration from the Birla Institute of Technology and Xavier Institute of Social Service respectively, coupled with her internships at Decimal Point Analytics and the Royal Bank of Scotland, has equipped her with the necessary skills to analyze complex data and present insights in an easy-to-understand format. Her paper on the impact of COVID-19 on CSR programs has received high commendation.

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