Both the octopus and squid are ocean-dwelling cephalopods. Nevertheless, they have different physical characteristics, behavioral patterns and habitats. Generally speaking, the former has a round head and eight long arms full of one or two rows of suckers. Squids have a triangular head, a mantle and eight arms with suckers or suction cups. Now we’ll go into more detail regarding the differences between octopuses and squids.
As it has no internal skeleton, the body of an octopus is very soft. The only hard part of its body is its beak—made of chitin—, which is used to eat prey.
The main part of a squid’s body is its mantle, from which two fins project, with one on each side. What’s more, its skin is covered with chromatophores. These allow it to change its color and blend in with its surroundings.
Did you know that both species have three hearts? Two of them are in charge of pumping blood to the gills, while the third pumps blood through the body.
Visually, the appearance of the bodies of these cephalopods is completely opposite. The squid has a large head with thin, short tentacles (particularly when compared with the size of the head) and the octopus is exactly the opposite, with its small head and 8 long arms.
To distinguish between the two, another piece of information to be considered is that most squids are smaller than octopuses, with the exception of giant squids. Most squids measure less than 30 cm. In contrast, octopuses—with a life span of approximately 5 years—grow to be quite large, with sizable ones inhabiting the oceans.
Male octopuses use the hectocotylus, a specialized arm for transferring their sperm to the mantle cavity of a sexually mature female. The female lays eggs that are guarded by her until they hatch 30 days later, or even one year later, depending on the species. Squids exhibit a different reproductive behavior; they mate in groups and deposit clusters of eggs amidst algae. Both species die soon after going through the reproductive cycle.
Both of them move by means of jet propulsion. That is to say, by sucking water and then pushing it back out quickly through a narrow siphon. This lets them easily move around and in all directions. Squids use their fins to propel themselves, but did you know that adult octopuses have no fins? An interesting fact about squids is that they also have a telescopic eye that allows them to focus while in motion, making it easier for them to move around.
Although it’s quite common to confuse the two, calamari is actually squid. A simple way to distinguish between a dish made using squid and one made using octopus is that when the meat is served as rings, it will always be squid, as the rings are sliced from this animal’s head, which is empty on the inside. Cutting the head into slices gives rise to the well-known rings.
In contrast, the octopus has a small head (which is generally discarded when cooking) and long tentacles. These tentacles are firm and covered with suckers of different sizes.
If the dish only contains tentacles, one way to differentiate them is that octopus tentacles are larger, with sizable suckers, whereas squid tentacles tend to be smaller, which means that their suckers are much smaller.
In a nutshell, it’s quite easy to distinguish between octopus and squid if you take a good look at its head and tentacles. Remember! The head of an octopus is always more rounded. In contrast, the squid has arms with suckers lined up, which are usually smaller than those of an octopus. Now that you know how to differentiate between them, you can’t go wrong when you go shopping in the future!
The head of an octopus is always more rounded. In contrast, the squid has arms with suckers lined up, which are usually smaller than those of an octopus.
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