American Oceans
Argentine Shortfin Squid displayed in a table

Argentine Shortfin Squid

The Argentine Shortfin Squid, known as Illex argentinus, is native to the coastline of Brazil and Argentina. Its name refers to its tentacles, which are shorter than its body or mantle.

Argentine Shortfin Squid displayed in a table

Though this species often appears red to orange in color, it can camouflage itself at will to match its surroundings and escape predators.

Perhaps the most unique thing about the Argentine Shortfin Squid is that their numbers continue to increase rapidly despite the amount caught.

Argentine Shortfin Squid have a short life cycle. However, they produce large quantities of eggs, so there is no concern over endangerment.

Globally, they are one of the most hunted species as the demand for squid as food increases. Over 2 billion squid were captured during the fishing season in previous years.

Though somewhat small and unassuming, the Argentine shortfin squid accounts for around a quarter of the global squid harvest.

It is currently listed as an IUCN Red List least concern species, thanks to management programs overseen by the NOAA and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

Characteristics & Appearance

Thanks to its unique body shape, the Argentine Shortfin Squid is easy to recognize, though you can’t always rely on color for identification purposes.

Weight & Length

The Argentine Shortfin Squid is relatively small, measuring less than two feet at maturity. Its mantle is often around seven inches to one foot in length, while its shorter tentacles extend out about nine to ten inches.

Mature males can weigh up to around 246 grams, while larger females weigh around 350 grams.

Physical Characteristics & Color

The Shortfin’s body is characteristic of most squid species, with large, triangular fins sitting atop a cone-shaped mantle.

Shorter arms extend from the base of its body with two long tentacles on either side, all equipped with rows of suckers. Its eyes lie on the sides of its head, giving the squid superior peripheral vision.

Shortfin Squid eggs are just as easy to recognize as their parents. The Argentine Shortfin lays its eggs in a single sac, often containing hundreds of thousands of viable eggs at a time. These egg cases can reach sizes as large as an adult human.

In its resting state, the Argentine Shortfin Squid appears red to orange in color and often boasts a darker stripe extending down the center of its mantle. Sometimes, squid may exhibit brown spotting in other areas as well.

When it feels threatened, the Argentine Shortfin Squid can change its color to match the surrounding environment. This camouflage capability allows it to evade predators and prey as it hunts.

Lifespan & Reproduction

The Argentine Shortfin Squid has a short lifespan, only living long enough to reproduce before dying.

Most squid live for one year or less, though Shortfins can stay alive for as long as two years under ideal conditions.

While their spawning season lasts throughout the year, Shortfin numbers peak between October and June.

Squid reproduce using internal fertilization and lay live, viable eggs in giant sacs on the seafloor. Each sac can contain as many as 750,000 embryos, though not all will make it to maturity.

Eggs can develop at different rates, and all of the young squid in a sac may not hatch simultaneously. Fish can also mature at different speeds, and the surrounding environment can heavily influence this timeframe.

Young Shortfin Squid grow at a rate of about one millimeter a day until they reach their full size. They will migrate from their birth site to the feeding grounds as juveniles. At sexual maturity, they will return to the spawning site to reproduce.


Argentine Shortfin Squid can tolerate relatively harsh conditions. As a result, they are widespread and abundant, making them one of the most commonly harvested squid varieties.

Shortfin Squid live at depths ranging from surface level to 800 meters below the surface. Each day, they migrate between the cold, deep water and warmer shallows to account for changes in the surrounding temperature. During the day, this species spends most of its time on the seabed.

Where Do Argentine Shortfin Squid Live?

The Argentine Shortfin Squid lives off the coast of Brazil and Argentina in the waters of the Atlantic ocean.

It prefers slightly warmer waters than its cousin, Illex illecebrosus, which lives along North American coastlines.

Though squid are solitary hunters, the Argentine Shortfin tends to form aggregates along the seafloor.

They live, feed, and migrate together, sometimes in dense packs. These aggregates make it easy for fishermen to haul in massive shortfin catches during the day.

Food & Diet

The Argentine Shortfin Squid is a predatory carnivore, feeding on prey from crustaceans to other squid species.

However, the Shortfin isn’t at the top of the food chain. Considering its wide migratory range, the Argentine Shortfin is vulnerable to myriad predators of its own.

What Do Argentine Shortfin Squids Eat?

The Argentine Shortfin Squid is an obligate carnivore but isn’t picky about its meals. Squid will eat just about anything smaller that crosses their path. There have even been cases of cannibalism documented in larger individuals.

The Argentine shortfin squid spends most of its days hunting along the seabed floor, often in large aggregates.

The type of prey that they prefer usually depends on the size. Shortfin Squid often eat crustaceans, crabs, shrimp, small fish, and other varieties of squid and octopus. They are visual predators and rely primarily on their keen eyesight to scope out prey.

Squid hunt by using their two longer feeding tentacles to snatch food. These tentacles can extend rapidly and attach to unsuspecting victims using rows of suction cups.

Once their prey is within reach, they can hold it using the arms surrounding their parrot-like beak. Squids eat prey by biting off chunks of meat and digesting it internally.

Argentine Shortfin Squid hunt primarily during daylight hours. At night, they rest closer to the surface. Most of the prey that these squids prefer are also diurnal.

Threats & Predators

Though the Argentine Shortfin Squid has an LC conservation status, it still faces threats to its future as a species.

Human Threats

Commercial fishing threatens to disrupt Argentine shortfin habitats as millions of pounds of fish get harvested each year. Standard fishing practices may also affect the daily migration cycle of squid.

Fortunately, monitoring bodies enforce sustainable harvesting practices to ensure that squid populations remain at healthy levels.

Climate Change & Global Warming

The birth and growth rates of the Argentine Shortfin depend heavily on the surrounding environment. Changes in ocean temperatures could have a drastic effect on the life cycle of this species.

Thermometer on sand showing high temperature climate change

Climate change may also affect the creatures that Shortfin Squid feed on, disrupting undersea food chains from the ground up.


Though the Argentine Shortfin Squid is a predator, it also serves as prey to a wide range of different species.

Argentine Shortfin Squid common predator

As they migrate between spawning and feeding grounds, squid encounter fish, mammals, and even birds that pose a threat.

Some of the most common predators of the Argentine Shortfin include bluefin tuna, hake species, flounder, swordfish, and birds such as gannets and fulmars.

Other Threats

Plastic, garbage, and other toxic waste dumped in the ocean significantly impacts ocean species such as the Argentine Shortfin Squid.

Plastic can poison marine life, blocking digestive tracts and leading to serious health complications.

It affects squid directly, but the prey that they eat. Eventually, plastics and toxins in squid meat may end up on someone’s dinner plate.

Conservation Status

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List, the Argentine Shortfin Squid is not considered endangered or at risk.

Its conservation status is “Least Concern” (LC), thanks mainly to government regulations, sustainable harvesting practices, and monitoring through government agencies.

Fun Facts About Argentine Shortfin Squid

  • The Argentine Shortfin Squid is named for its characteristic appearance, as its arms are noticeably shorter than its mantle.
  • The Argentine Squid is one of the most commonly harvested species globally.
  • According to the NOAA database, commercial fisheries brought in more than 61 million pounds of Shortfin Squid with approximately $24 million.
  • While Shortfin Squid are most often red or orange, they can change their appearance at will thanks to specialized cells called chromatophores.
  • Baby Shortfin grow as quickly as one millimeter a day as they approach maturity.
  • Shortfin Squid only reproduce once before dying.

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