Behaving in the dark: locomotor, chromatic, postural, and bioluminescent behaviors of the deep-sea squid Octopoteuthis deletron young 1972

Biol Bull. 2009 Feb;216(1):7-22. doi: 10.1086/BBLv216n1p7.


Visual behaviors are prominent components of intra- and interspecific communication in shallow-water cephalopods. Meso- and bathypelagic cephalopods were believed to have limited visual communication, other than bioluminescence, due to the reduced illumination at depth. To explore potential visual behaviors in mesopelagic squid, we used undersea vehicles to observe 76 individuals of Octopoteuthis deletron. In contrast to predictions, we found this species capable of a variety of visually linked behaviors not previously reported for a deep-ocean cephalopod. The resultant ethogram describes numerous chromatic, postural, locomotor, and bioluminescent behavioral components. A few common body patterns-the whole appearance of the individual involving multiple components-are characterized. The behaviors observed from individual squid were compared using a Non-metric Multi-Dimensional Scaling (NMDS) ordination, onto which hydrographic and observation parameters were mapped. Observation length, specimen collection, and contact with the vehicle affected which behaviors were performed. A separate NMDS, analyzing the body patterns, indicated that these sets of behavioral components could be visualized as groups within the NMDS ordination. While the functional roles of the behaviors described are not yet known, our findings of numerous behaviors in O. deletron clearly indicate that bioluminescence is not the sole method of visual communication by deep-sea squid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Decapodiformes / physiology*
  • Luminescence
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Pigments, Biological
  • Posture


  • Pigments, Biological