Cephalopod Ink…What is it?

Have you ever watched an octopus shoot out a cloud of ink to escape to safety? It’s pretty amazing that these cephalopods (members of the Molluscan class) release large amounts of ink into the water to escape from predators. But what is this ink actually made out of, and how does the whole process work?

Cephalopod ink can contain a number of different chemicals in a variety of different concentrations based on the certain species. The main component in Cephalopods ink is melanin. Sound familiar? This is because us humans have this same dark pigment that is responsible for the color of our hair and skin. How cool is that! This special dye is contained in an ink sac, but not all octopuses have an ink sac or the ability to produce ink. Different species of cephalopods also produce different colors of ink as well. Typically octopus and squid produce black ink, but ink can also be brown, reddish, or even a dark blue.

Octopus and Squid use their ink as a defense mechanism to escape from prey. When feeling threatened, they can release large amounts of ink into the water using their siphon. This ink creates a dark cloud that can obscure the predators view so the cephalopod can jet away quickly. The ink also can contain a compound known as tyrosinase, which irritates the predator’s eyes and paralyzes their sense of smell temporarily. Talk about a double whammy!

Believe it or not humans have also found ways to use cephalopod ink. As its name suggests, humans have used the ink to actually write with in the past. For more of a modern use, humans have also used the ink for food coloring and to add flavor in foods such as pastas and sauces.


Written By: Brooke Fox