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Opisthoteuthis Verrill 1883

Flapjack devilfishes

Roger Villanueva, Richard E. Young, and Michael Vecchione
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The following 19 nominal species are included in the genus.
taxon links [up-->]Opisthoteuthis bruuni [up-->]Opisthoteuthis grimaldii [up-->]Opisthoteuthis agassizii [up-->]Opisthoteuthis massyae [up-->]Opisthoteuthis hardyi [up-->]Opisthoteuthis persephone [up-->]Opisthoteuthis mero [up-->]Opisthoteuthis philipii [up-->]Opisthoteuthis robsoni [up-->]Opisthoteuthis californiana [up-->]Opisthoteuthis depressa [up-->]Opisthoteuthis pluto [up-->]Opisthoteuthis calypso [up-->]Opisthoteuthis medusoides [up-->]Opisthoteuthis albatrossi [up-->]Opisthoteuthis extensa [up-->]Opisthoteuthis chathamensis [down<--]Opisthoteuthidae Interpreting the tree
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Containing group: Opisthoteuthidae


Species of Opisthoteuthis are the most compressed, in the anterior-posterior axis, of any cephalopod. This flattened appearance (due sometimes to preservation) gives them the common name of flapjack or pancake devilfish. Fresh specimens have ovoid form. Species are thought to be primarily benthic although they are capable of swimming and in some species the swimming may be an important component of their pouncing on minute prey. As in other cirrates, most species are poorly known.


Opisthoteuthids ...


  1. Arms and web
    1. Arms of males generally with modified suckers (i.e., enlarged and often with complex alignment) in one or two fields (proximal and distal).
    2. Cirri short (in preserved animals).
    3. Cirri may be retractile into pockets. The retractile (rather than just contractile) nature of the cirri has been suggested by several authors due to their appearance in preserved animals. However, this attribute remains uncertain.
    4. Web nodules (= web supports; these are often difficult to detect) present as multiple or single nodules or absent. 
      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. Oral view of Opisthoteuthis grimaldii (?). Photograph shows multiple web nodules, some of which are indicated by the arrows. Also note the rather long cirri in this live Opisthoteuthis. Photograph from a submersible.

  2. Head
    1. Eyes large, diameter often 60-70% of ML, 50% of head width.
    2. Two or more bundles of optic tract penetrate white body.
    3. Optic lobe kidney-shaped in cross-section.

  3. Fins
    1. Small, length approximately half mantle width.

  4. Shell
    1. U-shaped, lateral walls of wings not parallel (i.e., spread between walls increases toward tips).
    2. Outer surface of saddle usually with groove (narrow or broad, shallow or deep); outer surface rarely flat.
    3. Wing frequently terminates as elongate, simple, pointed cone; termination complex in some species.

  5. Pigmentation
    1. Areolar spots present. In some species these are difficult to detect or absent.
      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 Opisthoteuthis agassizii. Photograph from submersible. In this photograph, the lines of white areolar spots are easily seen, especially on the arms.

  6. Viscera
    1. Gills with "half-orange" form.
    2. Intestine approximately 1.5 - 2.0 times esophagus (and crop) in length. Digestive tract not a simple loop (i.e., intestine makes lateral bends and/or loops.
    3. Digestive gland bilobed or unilobed.
    4. Radula absent.

Species Comparisons

  Mature males Both sexes
Species Arm I more robust Prox. field: No. of suckers Distal field: No. of suckers Prox. field: Arm no. Distal field: Arm no. Distal field: Largest sucker, mean position DESD> PESD ** Arm sucker counts Funnel organ Web supports Digest. gland bilobed Ocean
O. agassizii  No  5  7-8  I-IV  I-IV  34-36  No/yes  58-80  V-shape  Multiple  No  W.N.Atlantic
O. albatrossi  No  0  3  None  I  ?  Yes  80  ?  Single?  Yes  N. Pacific
O. borealis  Slight  5  9-14  I-IV  I-IV  27-30  Equal  75-82  ?  No  No  N. Atlantic
O. bruuni No 3 2-3 I-IV I-IV 24-27* No ? 2 pads ? ? E. S. Pacific
O. californiana No 8-10 3-8 I-IV I ca. 27 Yes ? 2 pads ? ? N. Pacific
O. calypso No 2-6 2-3 III I-IV 26-27 Yes 47-58 2 pads Single No E. Atlantic
O. chathamensis No 5-7 6-8 I-IV I-IV ca 22 Equal? 41-55 V-shape ? Yes W. S. Pacific
O. depressa No 16 0 I-IV None -- No 50 ? Absent? ? W. N. Pacific
O. extensa ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? E. Indian
O. grimaldii No 4-11 9-10 I-IV I-IV 29-31 No 73-80 2 pads Single Yes E. Atlantic
O. hardyi Slight 4-9 9-14 I-IV I-IV 22-24 Equal 60-67 ? Absent No high S. Atlantic
O. japonica  No  9  ?  I-IV  ?  --  No  ?  2 pads  ?  ?  W.N. Pacific
O. massyae Yes 7-8 9-11 I-IV II-IV 40-41 No 81-106 2 pads Multiple Yes E. Atlantic
O. medusoides ? ? ? ? IV ? ? ? ? ? ? W. Indian
O. mero No 5-8 ? I-IV None -- No 54-71 V-shape ? Yes W. S. Pacific
O. persephone ? ? ? ? ? ? ? 93 ? ? Yes Off S. Aust.
O. philipii ? 5-11 ? ? ? ? ? ? V-shape Single ? NW Indian
O. pluto ? ? 3-4 ? II-IV ? No? 80-85 2 pads ? Yes Off S. Aust.
O. robsoni No 7-8 ? I-IV None -- No 74-89 V-shape ? No W. S. Pacific

*From illustration. ** DESD = Distal field enlarged sucker diameter; PESD = Proximal field enlarged sucker diameter. For the purposes of this table, a distal field is considered to be absent if suckers there do not show a distinct enlargement.


Cirroteuthis caudani Joubin, 1896 appears to be a species of Opisthoteuthis [probably O. grimaldii or O. massyae according to Martin Collins, pers. comm., 2002] but the type is apparently lost (Villanueva et al., 2002)


Chun, C. 1915. Die Cephalopoden. Myopsida, Octopoda. Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse der Deutschen Tiefsee-Expedition, "Valdivia" 1898-1899, 18 (2): 405-522 + Atlas.

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

Sweeney, M.J. 2001. Current Classification of Recent Cephalopoda. pdf file, 59 pp.

Villanueva, R., Collins, M., Sanchez, P. and N. Voss. 2002. Systematics, distribution and biology of the cirrate octopods of the genus Opisthoteuthis (Mollusca, Cephalopoda) in the Atlantic Ocean, with description of two new species. Bulletin of Marine Science 71(2):933-985.

Voss, G. L. and W. G. Pearcy. 1990. Deep-water octopods (Mollusca: Cephalopoda) of the Northeastern Pacific. Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. 47: 47-94.

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 Opisthoteuthis sp
Location Photographied under aquarium conditions (Monterey Bay Aquarium)
Creator Photo by David Wrobel
Specimen Condition Live Specimen
Sex Female
View lateral
Copyright © Monterey Bay Aquarium
About This Page

Instituto de Ciencias del Mar (CSIC), Barcelona, Spain

Richard E. Young
University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, USA

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

All Rights Reserved.

Citing this page:

Villanueva, Roger, Young, Richard E., and Vecchione, Michael. 2008. Opisthoteuthis Verrill 1883. Flapjack devilfishes. Version 28 April 2008 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Opisthoteuthis/20106/2008.04.28 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

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