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Do Squids Lay Eggs? Reproduction & Life Cycle of Squids

Squids lay several thousand eggs at once. They generally lay them on the seafloor. The eggs are stored in egg capsules, with each capsule containing hundreds of eggs. Males court females and pass sperm packets to them. They only mate once. Squids have four life stages and live for about five years. They die after mating.

Whenever we look at strange creatures, we wonder about their lives. How do animals that live in the depths of oceans socialize? How do they mate? And how do they reproduce?

As with all elusive animals, these same questions come up with squids. Their fascinating “love lives” often interest people.

In this article, we take a look at squid eggs, mating, reproduction, and life cycle. Covering from the eggs to their deaths, there won’t be any unanswered questions left by the end.

Do Squids Lay Eggs?

Yes, squids lay eggs. The eggs are small, smaller than a rice grain. Squids lay their eggs in egg capsules, usually on the seafloor. Depending on the species, a female may lay up to 100,000 eggs.

All squid species lay eggs, albeit differently. To produce eggs, females need to get fertilized by males.

Males impregnate females after a long and elaborate courtship by placing the sperm in the females’ mantle cavities. After the eggs are fertilized, females swim down to the seafloor and lay up to 100,000 eggs (depending on the species).[1]

Although all squids lay different eggs, there are some general characteristics that apply to every species’ eggs:

  • 0.02–0.05 inches long
  • Elongated
  • Generally milky-white
  • Generally laid on the seafloor
  • Hundreds of eggs in capsules
  • Capsules stranded together
Do Squid Lay Egg

How Do Squids Mate?

Squid mating includes males passing the sperm capsule through their specialized arms into the females’ mantle cavities. The mating is preceded by a courtship in the open water. Squids mate once in their lives and die. They generally reach sexual maturity between 1–3 years old. Some squids have mating seasons.

The courting before mating usually takes place in open waters. Breeding areas are known to exist, but it is not a requisite for mating. When they meet, sexually ready males and females circle each other for a few hours (depending on the species). 

Color changing may take place, both to drive off predators and to impress the female.[2] Females may refuse their potential partners, but some squid males are aggressive. They either fight off any competing suitors or engage in jaw-locking with the female.[3]

A successful courting finishes with mating. No two squids have the same mating process, but here is how coitus usually takes place:

  1. Male seeks female in open water.
  2. Sexual willingness is communicated by changing color.
  3. Courtship includes swimming in circles and may include color changing on the male’s part.
  4. If the male is not accepted, it may become aggressive and chase the female down.
  5. Male places their hectocotylus (specialized “sex-arm”) into the mantle cavity of the female.
  6. Spermatophores (capsules of sperms) are transferred into the female.
  7. Sperm is either stored by the female or used right after mating.
  8. After eggs are fertilized, the females lay their eggs.

How Often Do Squids Mate?

Squids mate once in their life. Males and females die shortly after mating. The male is the first to perish, while the female dies around the time her eggs hatch.[4]

When Do Squids Mate?

There aren’t any known mating times that all squids adhere to, but some species prefer to start courting in the morning. Market squids exhibit behaviors suggesting mating seasons in Californian waters. It starts around February and lasts all spring.[5]

At What Age Do Squids Mate?

Squids mate when they reach sexual maturity, which comes with adulthood. Squids become adults around one to three years old.

How Many Eggs Do Squids Lay?

Squids lay thousands of eggs, but the maximum varies from species to species. Humboldt squids lay up to 20 million eggs, which is the most of any cephalopod.

Most squid species lay eggs in the range of 2,000 and 20,000, with Humboldt squids being a major outlier.[6] These eggs are laid in further capsules strained together, with each capsule containing hundreds of eggs.

SpeciesEgg Count
Humboldt squidUp to 20,000,000
Giant squid[7]Up to 100,000
European squid[8]Up to 20,000
Deep-sea squid[9]About 3,000
Vampire squid[10]6,000–20,000

Squid Life Cycle

Squids have four life stages: egg, larva, juvenile, and adult. Most squids live for one to three years. Sexually mature squids search for a mate and die after mating.

As squids have short lives but can grow to about 43 feet long, their life cycle is characterized by extreme and rapid growth. Some claims have been made about squids living for more than 15 years. Still, scientists believe that the maximum lifespan of any squid is about five years.[11]

Here are the four squid life stages:

  1. Egg
  2. Larva
  3. Juvenile
  4. Adult

1. Egg

Squid eggs are laid in enormous numbers, with up to 20 million eggs in one batch. The eggs themselves are made up of layers of membrane and gelatinous coatings. The coating hardens by contacting seawater. 

Although the most common practice is to lay eggs on the seafloor, some species (like Gonatus onyx) attach them to themselves[12]. Others, like the diamondback squid, lay them in open water.[13]

Here are the characteristics of the egg stage:

  • Mothers brood their eggs for up to nine months.
  • Eggs are grouped together in capsules.
  • Eggs are strained together.
  • They are usually laid on the seafloor.
  • The eggs are milky-white to salmon in color.
  • They have multiple gelatinous coatings.
  • Eggs measure between 0.2 and 0.3 inches long.

2. Larva

The larval stage is unique in cephalopods, as the newly hatched squids are called paralarvae instead. This is to differentiate them from larvae that go through true metamorphoses (like caterpillars). Squid hatchlings already look like their adult versions, just exponentially smaller.

After the eggs hatch, hatchlings swim to the surface to spend time among the plankton. There is no set time for how long this period lasts. Each hatchling must feed constantly to develop enough so they might descend.

Here are the characteristics of the larval stage:

  • Hatchlings about the size of eggs.
  • Below five percent survival rate.
  • Hatchlings look like adults.
  • Transparent skin.
  • Feeding on plankton, other larvae, and each other.
  • Descends from the surface after a few weeks to a few months.

3. Juvenile

Juvenile squids are characterized by rapid growth. They usually live in shallower waters than adults do. Their only goal at this stage is to eat and reach the adult stage as soon as possible.

These juveniles are usually below one inch long when they begin their life stage. By the end, they reach their full adult size, which can be as big as 43 feet.

Here are the characteristics of the juvenile stage:

  • Rapid growth.
  • Constant feeding.
  • Juveniles usually exist in a higher layer than adults.
  • Body mass may increase by 10 to 15 percent per day.
  • Life stage ends when the squid is one to three years old.

4. Adult

Adult Squids

In their final life stage, squids prioritize mating. These adults are either solitary or live in groups with a few to thousands of members.[14]

The life of adults consists of hunting and searching for a mate. Some species may eat up to 30% of their body weight each day and most mate when they are one to three years old.

Here are the characteristics of the adult stage:

  • Diet consists of fish and crustaceans.
  • Adults live solitary or in groups.
  • Final size is reached.
  • Adults search for a mate.
  • Squids live up to five years.

Do Squids Die After Mating?

Squids die after mating. This is due to the process called senescence, which is common among cephalopods.

Squids are semelparous animals, meaning they mate once and die shortly after. This naturally means that squids mate for life.

The males die first, shortly after the mating. Females brood their eggs and may live as long as their eggs hatch (sometimes a little longer).

Squids die due to senescence, like other cephalopods. This is characterized by self-mutilation, erratic behavior, and loss of appetite. The optic glands go into overdrive after mating, overproducing hormones. These contribute to squid bodies shutting down.

Senescence is natural and irreversible. It is suspected that it is an evolutionary defense against parents. Squids exhibit cannibalistic behavior and may be prone to eat their offspring.


Squids lay up to 20 million eggs. The eggs are in groups, strained together. Eggs are usually laid on the seabed. Squids court by swimming in circles and changing colors. Males pass sperm sacs into females’ mantle cavities while mating, which can be stored.

Squids go through four life stages: egg, larval, juvenile, and adult. They live for up to five years. Squids mate for life, as they die after mating due to senescence. The males perish first, shortly after coitus, then the females, around the time the eggs hatch.

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The Misfit Animals staff consists of animal lovers, pet enthusiasts, veterinarians, zoologists, and other animal experts. Our goal is to provide people with information on proper animal care.

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