Do cephalopods produce pheromones?


Larval Mass

Predators use various ways to detect their prey. For example, albatrosses use the "smell" of Antarctic krill at the surface in order to find them. Could this happen for cephalopods? As cephalopods have a wide range of reproductive strategies, is there any work to demonstrate that cephalopods might use pheromones to attract males or females of their own species, and consequently attract their predators?

Steve O'Shea

Colossal Squid
Hi Jose. I'm not too sure about attracting predators, although this might be a consequence of pheromone release, but there is some work on this subject underway. Unfortunately all I can track down at present is the following (this is not the reference that I am thinking about/trying to locate in my piles).

Boal, J.G.; Golden, D.K. 1999. Distance chemoreception in the common cuttlefish, Sepia officianalis (Mollusca: Cephalopoda). Journal of Experimental Biology and Ecology, 235: 307-317.

And check out the references therein.


Haliphron Atlanticus
Staff member
Not much work has been done on this. There is some research showing that chemicals associated with squid eggs influence male reproductive behavior (Hanlon's group if I remember correctly).

Mary Cheng looked for mating pheromones in dwarf species of octopus including O. wolfi, O. bocki and H. lunulata. Using standard "Y-maze" methodology, she found absolutely no evidence for any distance pheromone. Sexual recognition only occurred after mounting and usually insertion. The H. lunulata work is reported in our Animal Behaviour paper. The O. bocki research fell victim to the usual "negative results" trap and is only reported in her PhD dissertation (U.C. Berkeley).


Steve O'Shea

Colossal Squid
Thanks Roy.

I've found another, but it's still not the ref that I'm looking for. Rather frustrating really (I saw it only a couple of days ago, but knocked over the 'vertical, temporal filing system' in the office).

Zatylny, C.; Gagnon, J.; Boucaud-Camou, E.; Henry, J. 2000. ILME: A waterborne pheromonal peptide released by the eggs of Sepia officianalis. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 275: 217-222.

Steve O'Shea

Colossal Squid
Another couple:

Buresch, K.C.; Boal, J.G.; Knowles, J.; Debose, J.; Nichols, A.; Erwin, A.; Painter, S.D.; Nagle, G.T.; Hanlon, R.T. 2003. Contact Chemosensory Cues in Egg Bundles Elicit Male–Male Agonistic Conflicts in the Squid Loligo pealeii. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 29(3): 547-560.

This one (available for you at
Basil, J.A.; Hanlon, R.T.; Sheikh, S.I.; Atema, J. 2000. Three-dimensional odor-tracking by Nautilus pompilius. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 203: 1409-1414.

Still haven't found the one that I'm looking for!! Sorry.


Colossal Squid
Steve O'Shea said:
(I saw it only a couple of days ago, but knocked over the 'vertical, temporal filing system' in the office).
AKA "the heap of really important stuff that I need at my fingertips every day......." yup got several of those!



Sepia elegans
Staff member
Wow, thats a really interesting topic. I know that some cephs use phosphorescent cells to attract prey (in the deep ocean) but for others I'm not too sure. I hope this post continues because I'm interested in this subject!

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