Cephalopod Breeding Center
Mission Statement: The MBL Cephalopod Program’s overarching goal is to stimulate the next generation of cephalopod science by creating the first genetically tractable cephalopod research organisms. A cephalopod genetic system is important because it will be used to study biological novelties that are unique to this taxon. Examples include the ability to produce near-perfect camouflage, extensive recoding of genetic information within mRNAs, as well as the biggest nervous systems, and the most sophisticated behaviors, among invertebrates. Our year-round culture efforts will serve as a foundation for these research efforts.
For egg/animal requests or any cephalopod breeding lab inquiries, please email Bret Grasse, Manager of Cephalopod Operations, at email@example.com.
Hummingbird bobtail squid (Euprymna berryi)
Habitat: Shallow sandy bottom of the Indo-pacific Islands
Life span: 6 months, sexually reproductive at 3 months
Maximum size: 50 mm ML(mantle length)
Interesting facts: This species has a symbiotic relationship with bacterium Vibrio fischeri. This bacteria is bioluminescent and is held within the light organ. This bioluminescence 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.
Research potentials: E. berryi is an ideal model for research due to their small size, short time to maturity, high fecundity, high survivorship in culture, and interesting biology. This species is the first cultured cephalopod to receive successful gene editing through CRISPR-Cas9 application. Cellular to extracellular communication pathways allowing for bacterial symbiosis has biomedical applications. Any quantity of embryos will be available any time throughout the year.
Projected availability: Embryo production is ~1000+ weekly. This is MBL’s most prolific cephalopod culture where any quantity or life stage of embryo, juveniles, or adults will be available year-round.
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 ML (mantle length)
Interesting facts and research potential: This species has uniquely identifying black stripes, specific to each individual. This allows for non-invasive identification throughout their life. S. lineolata also have novel epidermal projections just behind their eyes, thought to help with their burying behavior. This distinctive anatomical feature is theorized to keep sand from interacting with the gill filaments. Striped pyjama squid are particularly hardy in laboratory. They are extremely tolerant of high stocking densities and research manipulations. Females are highly productive reproductively, producing between 50-100 eggs weekly.
Projected availability: Embryo production is ~200+ weekly. Hatchlings, juveniles, and adults are routinely available year-round at any age or life stage.
Pygmy zebra octopus (Octopus chierchiae)
Habitat: Small rocks, shells, and cracks in the pacific waters of Central America (Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica).
Life span: approximately 1.5 years, sexually reproductive at approximately 6 months.
Maximum size: 30mm (mantle length)
Interesting facts and research potential: This octopus species is ideally suited for laboratory research due its predictable reproduction, short time to maturity, small adult size, and unique ability to lay multiple egg clutches (iteroparity). Females can lay up to 12 separate egg clutches over their reproductive life stage, with new eggs laid every 30-90 days. Males of this species are sexually dimorphic, with small papillae on the tips of their arms rather than suckers.
Potential availability: Quantities are limited as MBL continues pioneer culture efforts and develops this resource. Please email Bret Grasse <firstname.lastname@example.org> directly to inquire about purchase options.
California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides)
Habitat: Shale beds, rocky dens, and diverse habitats found off the southern coast of California.
Life span: Approximately 2 years, 8 months until sexually mature (temperature dependent)
Maximum size: 180mm ML(mantle length)
Interesting facts and Research potential: Flashes bright blue iridescent circles below their eyes to communicate with other octopuses or potential predators. O. bimaculoides was the first ever cephalopod genome sequenced, cover of Nature. Easy to culture in laboratory settings, very high survivorship percentages in hatchlings. Can regenerate entire arms with full movement and sucker articulation.
Potential availability: Embryos available to order anytime, first come first serve. Juveniles and adults are available occasionally most of the year.
Stumpy-spined cuttlefish or dwarf cuttlefish (Sepia bandensis)
Habitat: Shallow coastal waters with reefs and habitat with refuge. Found in Indonesia and the Philippines.
Life span: 7-10 months, sexually mature at 3.5 months
Maximum size: 70mm ML(mantle length)
Interesting facts and Research potential: Robust small species of cuttlefish that’s easy to culture in laboratory. Capable of impressive camouflage. Commonly display the “passing cloud” behavior where they pulse rhythmic bands of color over their back. Genome currently being developed. Interesting social dynamics and interactions.
Projected availability: Embryos are available year-round in any quantity. Juveniles and adults are commonly available most of the year in small quantiles.
Flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi)
Habitat: Typically found in habitat deprived environment with sand and mud substrate. 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, sexually mature at 3.5 months
Maximum Size: 70mm ML(mantle length)
Interesting Facts and Research Potential: This cuttlefish ambles around the ocean floor using a unique form of movement, utilizing its ventral arms for quadrupedal locomotion. The species can pulse beautiful hypnotic bands of color over its body as a common behavior. Chromatophore/camouflage, behavior, and embryology research potential.
Projected availability: Embryos, juveniles, and adults are commonly available most of the year in small quantities.
Although the use of cephalopods for research is not currently regulated in the United States, the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) has implemented strict internal policies to ensure their ethical and humane treatment. All MBL researchers, faculty and students must receive training and adhere to the MBL's cephalopod welfare policies when using cephalopods for research and training on the MBL campus. All cephalopod research at MBL is reviewed by our Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and must be approved by IACUC. In addition, the MBL is working proactively with the greater cephalopod research community to develop a framework for national policies, grounded in science, for the ethical treatment of cephalopods used in research. The MBL's full Cephalopod Care and Use Policy is here.
All cephalopod systems are located on the second floor of the Marine Resources Center in the Mariculture Room, except 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 before supplying cephalopod mariculture facilities. All water discharged from the Mariculture Room is treated and sterilized via Ozone and discharged 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. Cephalopod systems seawater supply derives from three primary sources: 1) open systems, using flow-through natural seawater. 2) semi-open systems, where natural seawater is conditioned and refined before supplying cephalopod systems. 3) closed systems, using artificial sea salt to make seawater. System and seawater designation is dependent on species, life stage, and culture/research priority.
These 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.