Cool Creatures: Flashy firefly squid rival any holiday light display

Firefly Squid (photo:

by Erin Loury, Ichthyology Lab

Happy Holidays from The Drop-In!  Our gift to you is a Creature Feature of one our most popular celebrities.   “Firefly squid” and “bioluminescent squid” are some of the most frequent search terms that lead people to drop in on us.  And seeing how these decorated dazzlers are the winners of our “Vote for Your Favorite Holiday Marine Creature” poll, we figured their victory justifies some more attention.

Known to the science world as Watasenia scintillans and to the Japanese as “hotaru-ika,” these sparkling cephalopods grow to a mere three inches long. Their tiny bodies are packed with photophores, which they can flash in a variety of alternating patterns.  These squid are believed to be the only cephalopods that have color vision, possessing three visual pigments instead of one like other squid.

Toursits and fishermen alike soak up some squid light in Toyama Bay, Japan (photo:

Firefly squid live throughout the Western Pacific Ocean at depths from 600 to 1,200 feet.  They gather to spawn from March to May, and can be found by the millions (or even billions!) in Toyama Bay, Japan.   The adults die soon after releasing their eggs and sperm, completing a brief, one-year life cycle.  That is, if they are not first scooped up by fishermen to be served as a Japanese delicacy.

Learn more about firefly squid at Sea and Sky and The Pink Tentacle!

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1 Response to Cool Creatures: Flashy firefly squid rival any holiday light display

  1. Danna Staaf says:

    Yay, cephalopods for the holidays! Great post! You know, a part of me me is still holding out for cephalopods having figured out some way to get color vision without multiple pigments. It’s just too weird for them to match colors so well . . .


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