Cephalopod Mariculture

For egg/animal requests or any cephalopod breeding lab inquiries, please email Bret Grasse, Manager of Cephalopod Operations, at bgrasse@mbl.edu.


Hawaiian bobtail squid (Eurprymna scolopes)

Habitat – shallow sandy bottom of the Hawaiian Islands
Life span – 5 months, sexually reproductive at 2 months
Maximum size – 35 mm
Interesting facts – Symbiotic relationship with bacterium Vibrio fischeri. This bacteria is bioluminescent and is held within the light organ. This bacteria powered luminesce provides camouflage so they are not silhouetted by the moon at night when the animals are most active. Colonization of V. fischeri in the light organ occurs one hour after hatching, and drives the development of the light organ tissue to promote maintenance of this exclusive relationship.
Research potentials – Embryonic development. Top model species for genomic studies due to fast growth, robust in culture, short life span and high fecundity. Potential availability – Embryos will likely be available June – October.
Projected quantities of embryos: ~500 every week. Broodstock adults and F1 juveniles may be studied non-invasively any time.

Striped pyjama squid (Sepioloidea lineolata)

Habitat – Shallow sandy bottoms of the Indo-Pacific, Eastern, Western and Southern coast of Australia
Life span – not well described but highly variable, approximately 8 months to 2+ years depending on water temperatures and food availability. Bret Grasse, Taylor Sakmar and others became the first biologists to close this species lifespan (egg to adult to egg) at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2015.
Maximum size – 50 mm
Interesting facts and Research potential – This species has unique epidermal projections just behind their eyes, thought to help with their burying behavior. This characteristic is not understood at this time, leaving room for research into this distinctive anatomical feature. Interest in mapping the genome by Dr. Dan Roksar, OIST and other labs. Growth and culture research being published by Bret Grasse, Stephanie Bush, Taylor Sakmar; MBA/MBARI/MBL collaboration.
Projected quantities of embryos: ~200 every 2 weeks. Broodstock adults may be studied non-invasively any time.

California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides)

Habitat – Many diverse habitats found off the southern coast of California.
Life span – approximately 2 years
Maximum size – 180mm (mantle length)
Interesting facts and Research potential – Flashes bright blue iridescent circles below their eyes to communicate with other octopuses or potential predators. First ever octopus genome sequence, on cover of Nature. Behavior studies. Easy to culture in laboratory settings.
Potential availability – Embryos available to order anytime. ~100 embryos currently onsite and available. Broodstock adults may be studied non-invasively any time.

Dwarf or Stumpy cuttlefish (Sepia bandensis)

Habitat – Shallow coastal waters with reefs and habitat with refuge. Found in Indonesia and the Philippines.
Life span – 6-10 months
Maximum size – 70mm (mantle length)
Interesting facts and Research potential – Robust small species of cuttlefish that’s easy to culture in laboratory. Commonly display the “passing cloud” behavior where they pulse rhythmic bands of color over their back. Genomic, behavioral, and chromatophore research potential, among others.
Projected quantities of embryos: ~100 every 2 weeks. Juveniles and broodstock and may be studied non-invasively any time.

Flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi)

Habitat: Shallow waters with sand and mud substrate and migrate to deeper waters during the summer months. Found in the Indo-Pacific, off the northern coast of Australia, Southern New Guinea, and various islands of the Philippines.
Life Span: 6 – 8 months
Maximum Size: Very small cuttlefish species – 70mm (mantle length)
Interesting Facts and Research Potential: This cuttlefish ambles around the ocean floor using an extremely unique form of locomotion utilizing its ventral arms. The species is able to pulse beautiful hypnotic bands of color over its body. Bret Grasse was the first person to culture both species of this genus in aquaria. Chromatophore, behavior and embryology research potential.
Projected quantities of embryos: ~50 every 2 weeks


Wunderpus (Wunderpus photogenicus)

Habitat: Found in shallow water off the coast of Bali to the Philippines. The normally den in the sand and are considered crepuscular hunters.
Life span: 1 – 1.5 years
Maximum size: body to 3cm, arms to 20cm
Interesting facts: This spindly arm species can regenerate their arms like many other octopuses. Wunderpus have unique coloration patterns (like zebras) allowing for effective external individual identification.



MBL Water Systems

All cephalopod systems are located on the second floor of the Marine Resources Center in the Mariculture Room, expect for one display table on the first-floor tank room. MBL’s seawater comes from an intake line off of the South Shore of Woods Hole in Great Harbor across from the Lillie building. Water is pumped to the top of Lillie and gravity fed down to the MRC third floor.

The water is then filtered via sand and bag filters on the top floors of the MRC in the mechanical room. All of the cephalopod systems excluding the live food water tables receive water from Loop 7. This Loop is considered a Treated and Heated Loop. All water discharged from the Mariculture Room is treated and sterilized via Ozone and dumped into Eel Pond. All major Life Support Systems are monitored and maintained by MBL Plant Operations and Maintenance Department.

At MBL, cephalopod cultures are maintained on modular, custom-built seawater systems. These semi-open systems utilize redundant filtration/sterilization to maintain ideal water quality and provide for optimal culture conditions. Each system (20 ft2 footprint) can hold up to 650 adults and is monitored continuously by wireless IR video and advanced Neptune Apex aquarium control systems. The IR video surveillance allows us to track mating, feeding, territorial aggression, and egg laying events 24/7. The Neptune Apex aquarium controller ensures that the temperature, water levels, flow rates, salinity, pH, and lighting are all within optimal range.