Curled octopus (Eledone cirrhosa)

Curled octopus

Top facts

  • The curled octopus feeds on a range of invertebrates and fish, and can immobilise its prey with an injection of toxins.
  • The curled octopus is able to rapidly change colour to provide camouflage against different backgrounds.
  • If threatened by a potential predator, the curled octopus can squirt a jet of ink as a distraction.
  • The curled octopus can squeeze through tiny gaps as narrow as its beak.
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Curled octopus fact file

Curled octopus description

GenusEledone (1)

The cephalopods (meaning 'head-footed'), a group of molluscs that contain the octopuses, squid and cuttlefish, are probably the most intelligent of all invertebrates. They have well-developed heads, with large eyes and mouths that feature beak-like jaws. All octopuses have eight tentacle-like arms; indeed 'octopus' derives from the Greek for 'eight-footed' (5). The curled octopus is typically yellowish or reddish-orange in colour with rusty-brown patches and a whitish underside; individuals are able to rapidly change colour to suit their surroundings (3). The slender arms taper towards the tips; they feature a single row of suckers and are curled when the octopus is at rest, hence the common name (3).

Also known as
Lesser octopus, northern octopus.
Length: 40 - 50 cm (3)

Curled octopus biology

Like all cephalopods, the curled octopus is an active predator (4). It usually feeds on crustaceans, molluscs and other invertebrates as well as fish (4). When feeding on crabs, the curled octopus immobilises its prey by puncturing its eye and injecting toxins into the body of the crab. The digestive enzymes contained in the saliva of the octopus break down the attachments within the crab's body, allowing the carapace to be easily removed (4).


Curled octopus range

Found around the British coastline; it also occurs in the northeast Atlantic and in the Mediterranean (3).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Curled octopus habitat


Curled octopus status

Common and widespread.


Curled octopus threats

Not currently threatened.


Curled octopus conservation

Conservation action has not been targeted at this common species.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more

For more on this species see the (MarLIN) Marine Life Information Network species account, available from:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



The top shell of a turtle. In arthropods (insects, crabs etc), the fused head and thorax (the part of the body located near the head) also known as ‘cephalothorax’.


  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (November, 2002)
  2. Wilson, A., 1999. Eledone cirrhosa. Curled octopus. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. (November, 2002)
  3. Buczacki, S. (2002) Fauna Britannica. Hamlyn, London.
  4. Grisley, M.S., Boyle, P.R. and Key, L.N. (1996) Eye puncture as a route of entry for saliva during predation on crabs by the octopus Eledone cirrhosa (Lamarck). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 202: 225 - 237.

Image credit

Curled octopus  
Curled octopus

© Espen Rekdal / Inc.
77-6425 Kuakini Hwy.
Ste C2-200
Kailua Kona,


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