Under Construction
This is an archived version of a Tree of Life page. For up-to-date information, please refer to the current version of this page.

Amphitretinae Hoyle 1885

Amphitretus Hoyle, 1885

Richard E. Young, Katharina M. Mangold (1922-2003), and Michael Vecchione
Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
A single genus and two species are recognized in this family.
Containing group: Amphitretidae


This transparent, gelatinous and nearly colourless octopod is small (90 mm ML, Nesis, 1982/7) and has the body foreshortened in the anterior-posterior axis. The arms bear one row of suckers proximally but two rows near the arm tips; the web is deep. The mantle is fused to the posterior end of the funnel leaving three openings into the mantle cavity. One is the funnel orifice and the other two are the remnants of the mantle aperature located lateral to the funnel. The eyes are in a dorsal position, tubular in shape and with their bases in contact; however, the optical axes diverge by 70° (see photographs below). This is the only octopod known to have tubular eyes. The stomach is reported to be anterior to the digestive gland but actually lies on the dorsal surface of the gland. The third right arm is hectocotylized (see title photographs). Young Amphitretus probably occur mostly in upper mesopelagic depths during the day, judging by their morphology and a few captures (but note depth of title photographs). Little is known of the life history and biology of this unusual octopod.

Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window

Figure.A. pelagicus photographed in ship-board aquaria off Hawaii. Left - Dorsal view of the same octopod as in the title photographs. Photograph by Steven Haddock. Center - Dorsoposterior view. Right - Side view. In latter two images, the octopod is crawling on the side of the aquarium (from Young et al., 1999).

Brief diagnosis:

An incirrate ...


  1. Arms
    1. Arm suckers in single series proximally, double series distally (see below).
    2. Right arm III of male hectoctoylized.

  2. Head
    1. Eyes tubular in shape.

    2. Beaks: Descriptions can be found here: Lower beak; upper beak.

  3. Funnel
    1. Funnel fused to mantle ventrally; mantle opening reduced to broad pores lateral to funnel.
      Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
      Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window

      Figure. Side view of an A. pelagicus emphasizing the funnel-mantle fusion and the mantle opening just ventral to the eye. Drawing by R. Young.

  4. Viscera
    1. Stomach lies dorsal to digestive gland.
    2. Radula is ctenoglossan.
      Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
      Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window

      Figure. Radula of A pelagicus showing rhachidian tooth (on right) and multicuspid first and second lateral teeth. Drawing modified from Thore, 1949.

  5. Shell
    1. Shell (stylets) absent.


More information on the anatomy/behavior of A. pelagicus can be found here.

The arm suckers are more closely spaced near the arm tips and appear to be arranged in two series.

Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window

Figure. Two views of the arm tips of a living A. pelagicus in a shipboard aquarium with suckers apparently in a double series. Photographs by R. Young.


Idioctopus gracilipes Taki, 1962 is probably a synonym (see Hochberg, et al., 1992).

A list of all nominal genera and species in the Amphitretidae can be found here. The list includes the current status and type species of all genera, and the current status, type repository and type locality of all species and all pertinent references.


The family was thought to have only a single species until O'Shea (1999) demonstrated that two species occurred off New Zealand, although Nesis (1982/87) recognized two subspecies.

The species are separated most clearly by the structure of the hectocotylus: In A. pelagicus the ligula lacks suckers but has two series of papillae and the sucker count is 27-28. In A. thielei the ligula lacks both suckers and papillae, and the sucker count is 21-24. In addition, A. pelagicus has 10 lamellae in the outer demibranch of the gill and non-hectocotylized arms that each bear 22-32 (generally below 30) suckers, while A. thielei has 8 outer gill lamellae and non-hectocotylized arms with 24-41 (generally above 30) suckers.

Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window

Figure. Left - Distal portions of the hectocotyli of A. pelagicus. Right - Distal portion of the hectocotylus of A. thielei. Drawings from O'Shea, 1999.


The distribution of A. pelagicus probably includes the tropical and subtropical waters of the world's oceans. Off New Zealand, A. pelagicus is found in subtropical waters while A. thielei is found further south in temperate waters (O'Shea, 1999).

Other Names for Amphitretus Hoyle, 1885


Hochberg, F. G., M. Nixon and R. B. Toll. 1992. Order Octopoda Leach, 1818. In: Sweeney, M. J., C. F. E. Roper, K. M. Mangold, M. R. Clarke and S. v. Boletzky (eds.) "Larval" and juvenile cephalopods: A manual for their identification. Smithson. Contr. Zool., 513:1-282.

Nesis, K. N. 1982. Abridged key to the cephalopod mollusks of the world's ocean. 385+ii pp. Light and Food Industry Publishing House, Moscow. (In Russian.). Translated into English by B. S. Levitov, ed. by L. A. Burgess (1987), Cephalopods of the world. T. F. H. Publications, Neptune City, NJ, 351pp.

O'Shea, Steve. 1999. The Marine Fauna of New Zealand: Octopoda (Mollusca: Cephalopoda). NIWA Biodiversity Memoir 112: 280pp.

Thore, S. 1949. Investigations on the "Dana" Octopoda. Dana-Report No. 33, 85pp.

Voight, J. R. 1997 -- Cladistic analysis of the octopods based on anatomical characters. J. Moll. Stud., 63: 311-325.

Young, R. E., M. Vecchione and D. Donovan. 1999. The evolution of coleoid cephalopods and their present biodiversity and ecology. South African Jour. Mar. Sci. (in press).

Title Illustrations
Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
Scientific Name Amphitretidae
Location Hawaiian waters at 22.43?N, 157.97?W
Comments In situ photographs of a male A. pelagicus taken at a depth of 830 m. Left - Orientation of octopod when first seen by the ROV (eyes directed upward, arms curled inward). Middle - Side view with arms extended. Right - Oral view with arms extended. Note hectocotylized right arm III.
Acknowledgements Image courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). You must obtain permission from MBARI to use this photo; please contact pressroom@mbari.org for further information.
Specimen Condition Live Specimen
Identified By R. E. Young
Sex Male
Copyright © 2013 MBARI
About This Page

University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, USA

Katharina M. Mangold (1922-2003)
Laboratoire Arago, Banyuls-Sur-Mer, France

National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D. C. , USA

Page: Tree of Life Amphitretinae Hoyle 1885. Amphitretus Hoyle, 1885. Authored by Richard E. Young, Katharina M. Mangold (1922-2003), and Michael Vecchione. The TEXT of this page is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License - Version 3.0. Note that images and other media featured on this page are each governed by their own license, and they may or may not be available for reuse. Click on an image or a media link to access the media data window, which provides the relevant licensing information. For the general terms and conditions of ToL material reuse and redistribution, please see the Tree of Life Copyright Policies.

Citing this page:

Young, Richard E., Katharina M. Mangold (1922-2003), and Michael Vecchione. 2013. Amphitretinae Hoyle 1885. Amphitretus Hoyle, 1885. Version 07 July 2013 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Amphitretus/20191/2013.07.07 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

edit this page
close box

This page is a Tree of Life Branch Page.

Each ToL branch page provides a synopsis of the characteristics of a group of organisms representing a branch of the Tree of Life. The major distinction between a branch and a leaf of the Tree of Life is that each branch can be further subdivided into descendent branches, that is, subgroups representing distinct genetic lineages.

For a more detailed explanation of the different ToL page types, have a look at the Structure of the Tree of Life page.

close box


Page Content

articles & notes



Explore Other Groups

random page

  go to the Tree of Life home page