Not all cephalopods have the profile of the Giant ‘kraken’ but this newly discovered bobtail squid packs a punch. Read about how a new species of squid was discovered in the Okinawa and Yaeyama Islands of the Ryukyu archipelago.

An international collaboration between Australian Museum Research Institute’s (AMRI) Dr Mandy Reid and colleagues from Japan, Austria, and the United States has resulted in the discovery of a new species of bobtail squid.

Adult female Euprymna brenneri

Adult female Euprymna brenneri (the new species of bobtail squid)

Image: J. Jolly

Named in honour of renowned molecular biologist and Nobel Prize winner, Prof. Sydney Brenner [1927–2019], ‘Brenner’s Bobtail’ was identified as a new species on the basis of its unique morphology and molecular characteristics. Prof. Brenner, also president and one of the founders of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), once described cephalopods (the animal group to which these squid belong) as, ‘the first intelligent animals on the planet’.

The discovery was made when researchers at OIST collected three different types of bobtail egg clutches and two types of adults in the shallow waters around the Ryukyu Islands in the East China Sea.

Embryo developing inside an egg. Its bulbous yolk food-sac can be seen on the left. Photo: J. Jolly (OIST)

Embryo developing inside an egg. Its bulbous yolk food-sac can be seen on the left.

Image: J. Jolly

The eggs were hatched and reared in the laboratory and the DNA of two of the three types of hatchlings matched that of two of the adult animals that were collected at the same time. A third type proved difficult to rear, but the hatchling DNA was very similar to that of a species described from Australia, Euprymna pardalota Reid, 2011.

Described in Communications Biology, the new species, Euprymna brenneri Sanchez et al. 2019, ranges up to about 22 mm in total body length (excluding the head and arms). Euprymna brenneri differs from all other species in the genus because the females have enlarged arm suckers. Usually, it is only the males that have this trait.

Euprymna brenneri hatchling. Photo: J. Jolly (OIST)

Euprymna brenneri hatchling.

Image: J. Jolly

In addition, as part of the study, the relationships among the three Okinawa ‘types’ were compared with other described species in the family. This revealed that one of the three, formerly known as Sepiola parva Sasaki, 1913 actually belongs in the same genus as the new species and is now referred to as Euprymna parva.

The newly published study sheds light not only on the taxonomy of cephalopods, but also their complex molecular and morphological structures. Work is continuing to learn more about these enigmatic marine animals.

Dr Mandy Reid, Collection Manager, Malacology, Australian Museum Research Institute

More information:

Aaronson, A. (2019) There’s a new squid in town. Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University. Available from:

Sanchez G., Jolly J., Reid A., Sugimoto C., Azama C., Marlétaz F., Simakov O. & Rokhsar D.S. (2019). New bobtail squid (Sepiolidae: Sepiolinae) from the Ryukyu islands revealed by molecular and morphological analysis. Communications Biology. 2: 465. Doi: 10.1038/s42003-019-0661-6.

Friedberg, E. (2019). Sydney Brenner (1927-2019) Mischievous steward of molecular biology’s golden age. Nature Obituaries. 568, 459. Doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01192-9.