The ecological role of cephalopods and their representation in ecosystem models

  • Thibaut de la ChesnaisEmail author
  • Elizabeth A. Fulton
  • Sean R. Tracey
  • Gretta T. Pecl


Cephalopods, especially squids, are believed to have a structuring role in marine ecosystems as a link between different trophic levels, primarily due to their voracious prey consumption and high production rate. Cephalopod ecology, however, is still poorly understood as observational studies often give highly uncertain and variable results due to the peculiarities of cephalopod behaviour and biology, and their responsiveness to external drivers. This review evaluates our representation of cephalopods in ecosystem models and the insights given by these models on the role of cephalopods in our oceans. We examined ecosystem models from 13 regions to analyse the representation of cephalopods and compared their results to local trophic studies. Our analysis indicated that most ecosystem models inadequately include cephalopods in terms of model structure and parametrization; although some models still have the capacity to draw valuable conclusions regarding the impact and role of cephalopods within the system. Oceanic squid species have a major role linking trophic levels and food webs from different habitats. The importance of neritic species varies locally, but generally cephalopods have a substantial impact via their consumer role. To better understand the ecological role of cephalopods, improved representation of these species in ecosystem models is a critical requirement and could be achieved relatively easily to more accurately articulate the mechanisms regulating the ecological role of cephalopods.


Cephalopods Ecological role Ecosystem model Key species 



We would like to acknowledge the financial and material support of the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). GTP was supported by an ARC Future Fellowship (FT140100596). I would also like to thank the reviewers who provided comments that allowed us to substantially improve the manuscript through the revision process, both in terms of robustness and clarity of presentation.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Marine and Antarctic StudiesUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research OrganizationHobartAustralia

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