Physical Description

  • A smaller squid, they reach a total of one foot in length including their arms.
  • Iridescent coloration of milky white and purple spots; can change color in response to their environment.
  • Eight arms and two tentacles extending from the end of their bodies where their mouth is located.
  • Can release ink to escape a predator.
  • Juveniles: called paralarvae when they hatch; they resemble miniature adults.


  • From southeastern Alaska to Baja California, Mexico.
  • Most abundant from Monterey Bay, California to Punta Eugenia, Baja California, Mexico.


  • Nearshore species.
  • From ocean surface to 2600 feet deep. Spend days at depth and come to surface at night to feed.
  • Adults come to sandy habitats to lay eggs.


  • They reproduce right before they die, at about one year old.
  • Spawning is year-round, with spawning April-October in Central California and October-May in Southern California.
  • Spawning grounds are sandy habitats, where they gather in large schools.
  • Males deposit spermatophores into females to fertilize eggs; eggs are deposited on sand in mounds of egg cases.
  • Each female lays about 20 egg cases of 200 eggs each.
  • Eggs take days to months to hatch, depending on water temperature.


  • Feed on krill, small crustaceans, small fish, and other squid.


  • Eaten by many fish, including salmon, lingcod, and rockfish.
  • Eaten by seabirds and marine mammals.

Interesting Facts

  • Market squid have a short life span, only 6-9 months, and the entire population replaces itself annually.
  • They are heavily impacted by water temperature, with many less squid during El Niño events.
  • The market squid fishery is one of the largest fisheries in the United States and the most financially valuable fishery in California.

Sources: NOAA Fisheries;

Photo: David R Andrew