What’s the difference between arms and tentacles?

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Octopuses are famous for their eight sucker-covered arms, whereas squids, from giant Architeuthis dux to the appetizer-size critters served at restaurants, swim with even more appendages: eight arms and two tentacles. So, what’s the difference between these different types of boneless limbs?

Squids, octopuses and their hard-shelled nautiloid relatives are all big-brained members of the class Cephalopoda. With the exception of ancient nautiloids, all living cephalopod species fall under the category of either eight-legged Octopodiformes or 10-legged Decapodiformes, and have muscular, sucker-laden arms. However, only squids, cuttlefish, bobtail squids and other members of Decapodiformes have tentacles, and only vampire squid sport stringy appendages called filaments, according to a paper published in 2017 in the Journal of Molluscan Studies. The difference between all of these cephalopods’ limbs, it turns out, largely comes down to shape and sucker placement.

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