Glass squid

About Glass Squid

Glass squid spend their lives going with the flow. Literally. Filled with ammonium chloride, a solution that’s lighter than seawater, they float effortlessly through the ocean in search of mates and food.

Born into the light-filled surface waters, juveniles’ transparent bodies may help them blend in with their surroundings. At four months, glass squid reach full size and are ready for much deeper waters. So far, they have been spotted as far down as 2,000 meters (6,600 feet).

Glass squid—specifically, Chranchia scabra—get a rough reputation because of the small tubercles dotting their bodies (also called their “mantle”). If they sense danger, this squid can transform into a lumpy ball by stuffing its bulbous head and tentacles into its mantle cavity. They’re also able to “go dark” by instantly changing the color of their skin to black. Scientists have noticed that glass squid release ink into their mantle when threatened, which may help them change color, or could act as a chemical weapon against hungry whales and seabirds.

Shape-shifting and camouflage aren’t the only cool tricks up the glass squid’s tentacles. Light-emitting organs, or photophores, around their eyes help them see in the dark and scare away predators. Females also sport photophores on the tips of their arms, which may be useful for attracting mates.


Quick Facts

Common NameGlass squid
Scientific NameCranchia scabra, Liocranchia rienhardtia
Other NamesBathyscaphoid squid, rough cranch, glass squid
Size10-12 cm (4-5 inches)
DiscoveryCranchia: W. E. Leach (1817). Liocranchia: originally named Leachia reinhardtii by Steenstrup (1856).
Eats what?Small fish, crustaceans, anything of similar size
Eats how?Not yet known
Is eaten by?Short-finned pilot whales, sperm whales, albatross, petrels