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Magnapinnidae Vecchione and Young, 1998

Magnapinna Vecchione and Young, 1998

taxon links [down<--]Chiroteuthid_families [up-->]Magnapinna sp. A [up-->]Magnapinna sp. B [up-->]Magnapinna sp. C [up-->]Magnapinna pacifica [up-->]Magnapinna talismani Interpreting the tree
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Containing group: Chiroteuthid families


The family Magnapinnidae was originally based on a single species, Magnapinna pacifica. However, the discovery of a second species (Vecchione and Young, submitted) with somewhat different features has indicated that several more species, only one of which is named, exist in the family. Most of the latter are poorly known.

Vecchione et al (2002) described the occurrence of a strange, large squid recorded only by submersible or ROV observations (see title photograph). The authors suggested that these squid belong in the family Magnapinnidae. With the discovery of more species, although based only on juveniles, we now more strongly suspect that these large deep-sea squid are magnapinnids and we include them here. The title photograph shows the thicker regions of the arms and tentacles that are often held at nearly right angles to the body axis and the long, slender portions of the arms and tentacles that trail the squid and are nearly parallel to the body axis. Apparent counterparts for these regions of the arms/tentacles are apparent in the juveniles. For ease of description we give separate names to these two regions: the proximal-arms/tentacles and the distal-arms/tentacles.


One of the chiroteuthid families with ...


  1. Arms
    1. Arms with short, thick proximal-arms and long, slender distal-arms.
    2. Arms suckers with bi- to quadra-serial suckers on proximal-arms.
    3. Figure. Ventral and dorsal views of the brachial crowns of M. pacifica, 51 mm ML . Drawing from Vecchione and Young (1998).

  2. Tentacles
    1. Tentacles with short, thick proximal-tentacles and long, slender distal-tentacles.
    2. Proximal-tentacles with or without suckers; distal tentacles with numerous, small suckers.
    3. Tentacles without keels, terminal pads or locking apparatuses.

  3. Buccal crown
    1. Buccal connectives attach to ventral margins of arms IV.

  4. Head
    1. Head short without distinct neck or brachial pillar.

  5. Funnel
    1. Funnel with oval locking-apparatus without tragus or antitragus.

  6. Fins
    1. Fins terminal.
    2. Fins large, ca. 70-90% of ML
    3. Short tail usually present. May represent drawn-out tip of fins that have been damaged.
    4. Figure. Ventral view of Magnapinna pacifica, holotype. Note that the muscular mantle terminates in the anterior region of the fins. Photograph from Vecchione and Young (1998), modified.

  7. Photophores
    1. Photophores absent.


All described specimens are based on juveniles. The adult/subadult squid, observed only from submersibles or ROVs, have the following features: The arms and tentacles typically are held in an unusual position: They extend at sharp angles to the body axis then abruptly (sometimes at a 90° angle) turn anteriorly. The "elbow" is, roughly, two thirds of the length of the mantle away from the body axis. This arm posture recalls the way in which the tentacles of Mastigoteuthis spp. are held apart although with the aid of the ventral arms. Rough estimates from videos indicate total lenghts up to 7 m (Vecchione, et al, 2001). Arms and tentacles are approximately equal in thickness and length. The tentacles are usually not easily recognizable in videos; the arms and tentacles, therefore, appear as 10 equal appendages. Length of the arms/tentacles of the squid pictured below are about 10 times the ML although they are highly contractile. Guerra et al (2002) estimated that an individual they observed had arms/tentacles about 15-20 times the ML. The relative length of the arms/tentacles is far greater than in any other squid. The head appears to be small. Fin Length of the specimen pictured below is about 80% of the ML. Guerra et al (2002) estimated the fin length of their specimen at about two thirds of the ML. The fin position is terminal.

Figure. Insitu images of Magnapinna sp., Gulf of Mexico. Left - Side view showing long appendages. Right - Dorsal view showing common posture with proximal-arms/tentacles at nearly right angles to the body axis. Video frames of taken by DSV Alvin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Dives co-sponsored by NOAA Undersea Research Program, Minerals Management Service and National Energy Technology Lab.

  Tentacle base wider than arm IV base Proximal-tentacle with suckers Proximal-tentacle with glandular structures. Pigment mostly in chromatophores White nodules on fins Habitat
M. pacifica Yes Yes No Yes No North Pacific
Magnapinna sp. A No No Yes Yes No North Atlantic
Magnapinna sp. B No ? ? No No North Atlantic
Magnapinna sp. C No No No Yes No South Atlantic
M. talismani No No No Yes Yes North Atlantic

Due to the poor condition of the single specimens of Magnapinna sp. C and M. talismani and uncertainities in the original description of the latter, the unlikely possiblity exists that Magnapinna sp. A, Magnapinna sp. C and M. talismani all belong to the same species.


A list of all nominal genera and species in the Magnapinnidae 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.

Relationship of Magnapinnidae to Other Oegopsida

Based on similarity (cladistic analyses have not been made), this family seems most closely related to the "chiroteuthid families" (Vecchione and Young, 1998). These families include the Chiroteuthidae, Mastigoteuthidae, Joubiniteuthidae, Batoteuthidae and Promachoteuthidae. It shares the following characteristics with these families:

A few additional characters are shared with the Chiroteuthidae and Mastigoteuthidae:


Guerra, A., Gonzalez, A. F., Rocha, F., Segonzac, M., Gracia, J. 2002. Observations from submersibles of rare long-arm bathypelagic squids. Sarsiae 87:189-192.

Vecchione, M., Young R. E. 1998. The Magnapinnidae, a newly discovered family of oceanic squid (Cephalopoda: Oegopsida). South African Journal of Marine Science, 20:429-437.

Vecchione, M., R.E. Young, A. Guerra, D.J. Lindsay, D.A. Clague, J.M. Bernhard, W.W. Sager, A.F. Gonzalez, F.J. Rocha, and M. Segonzac. 2001. Worldwide observations of remarkable deep-sea squids. Science 294: 2505-2506.

Vecchione, M., Young R. E. Submitted. The squid family Magnapinnidae (Mollusca; Cephalopoda) in the North Atlantic with a description of a new species.

Title Illustrations
Scientific Name Magnapinna sp.
Location Gulf of Mexico, 27?45'N, 88?31'W, at 1940 m depth
Specimen Condition Live Specimen
View Side
Size ca. 7 m
Copyright © NOAA Undersea Research Program, Minerals Management Service and National Energy Technology Lab.
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Citing this page:

Tree of Life Web Project. 2005. Magnapinnidae Vecchione and Young, 1998. Magnapinna Vecchione and Young, 1998. Version 16 August 2005 (temporary). http://tolweb.org/Magnapinna/52203/2005.08.16 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

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