When humans first explored the seas of Spec, we assumed the belemoids, a group of shelled cephalopods similar to squid, had gone extinct in the Eocene, as they had in RL.  However, close inspection of the vast coral reef that fills Spec's Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean reveals a relic species, a tiny belemoid that cleans the skins of fishes.

    In some respects, the utilituthians, or cleaner squid, had certain advantages when they came to occupy that niche that, in our timeline, is occupied by the cleaner wrasse and shrimps. As a small cephalopod, squid were already the predators of small crustaceans, and were already capable of the complex signaling that the modern cleaner squid uses to advertise their services.

    Utiliteuthians are locally common and quite diverse in the Caribbean reefs, but no trace of them or their kin has been found in any of Spec's other oceans.  Most likely, this clade represents a fraction of a much larger belemoid diversity that has since gone extinct, perhaps due to changing global climate or competition from teleost fishes and true squid.

(Text by Daniel Bensen and Drhoz)


    The balaenateuths are perhaps the most highly-derived of all molluscs. The adults of these cephalopods have forsaken jet-propulsion (using those elements solely for respiratory purposes) and instead rely on one or two pairs of huge muscular flippers extending from the mantle. The mouth and tenticular bases have retracted deep into the mantle, residing in a huge, "preoral chamber". The distal ends of the two arrow-like whip tentacles extend out of the mantle rim; the "arrowheads" have become greatly enlarged and effectively form a pair of jaws.

    One pair of tentacles has lost all of their suction discs but bear a mass of huge feathering bristles. These "baleen-tentacles" are extended out of the preoral chamber and strain plankton from the water. When the bristles are then  retracted into the preoral chamber where six feeding-tentacles gather the catch from the bristles and transfer it to the mouth.

    The fossil record for these creatures is poorly known but they are highly derived decapods that probably branched off at a phylogenetic midpoint between belemnoids and cuttlefish. Immediate post-larval balaenateuths often possess a well-developed belemite structure.


(Picture by Matti Aumala)

    Balaenateuthids, or four-finned balaenateuthians, fall into 2 broad categories with regards to feeding. Some, like the Imperial Baleen-squid are shooters, extending out their baleen-tentacles far from their "maw" to grab shoals of plankton like some oversized barnacle. Others rely on a more passive skimming method, cruising forwards with their "jaws" (whip-tentacles) open, passing water through their baleen-tentacles to filter out small animals. In these forms, the baleen-tentacles cannot extend far out of the maw.

    Balaenateuths are extremely intelligent and surprisingly vocal. By playing their radula against a large plate on the roof of the throat, the cephalopods can produce a wide range of clicks, buzzes and tones. Reproduction is similar to that of other pelagic decapods with the exception that balaenateuths do not die after the event and may mate several times. However their lifespan is still much shorter than that of a comparable sized vertebrate, averaging between 6-10 years.

(Text by Brian Choo)
(Picture by Matti Aumala)
    Clade alanatatoridae is a group of balaenateuths that split from the main branch early in their evolution, before the charictaristic four flippers of their cousins had evolved.  Alanatatorids are all rather slow swimmers, cruising through the upper levels of the ocean with feeding tentacles extended, rather than actively pursuing prey as do the other balaenateuths.
  • Mantasquid

  • Cthulidae
        Sometimes classified as Chtuluprolinae, a sub-clade of the wingsquids, and sometimes as Chtuluprolia, a sister taxon of  all the balaenateuths, ktulu spawn represent a curious mix of primitive and derived characteristics.  As larvae, these creatures possess the siphons of lower cephalopods, and chtuluprolids retain a belimite-like internal shell to adulthood, but their mantle-fins are very similar to those of the wingsquids.  Thus, Chtuluprolidae is represented here as a taxon on par with both the balaenateuthids and alanatatorids, with a greater affinity with the latter than the former.

    (Text by Daniel Bensen)

         The ktulu spawn is the only well known member of clade Cthulidae, the other being the elusive deep-sea dwelling great ktulu (Cthulumagnus horridus), which is a kind of Spec cryptid, known only from a few whale-sized rotting hulks washed to the beach. Ktulu spawn were first mistaken as ktulu young, before it was shown that they are indeed adults of a different species. Many consider the great ktulu to be only a myth, but the family of the unfortunate deep sea diver and marine biologist George Gilman strongly disagree. His last words on his fateful dive were reportedly: "My god, is that thing a tentacle or...?"

        If the great ktulu indeed exists, it might fill the same niche as the equally mysterious giant squid of earth.

    (Text by Matti Aumala)

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