Dr. Steve O'Shea Autobiography and Select Bibliography (updated 2008)


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My interests are many, but my love for the sea is the strongest and started way back when I was 4 (a couple of years ago). We lived right on Onetangi Beach, Waiheke Island, out in the Waitemata Harbour, Auckland, New Zealand. 'A couple of years later' I find myself back home again, having just returned to Auckland, and I'm happy.

Like many people I found school a chore, with teachers that just didn't understand me, and subjects that I simply wasn't interested in. Things finally picked up when I got to University, starting in 1984 and doing the standard stuff - the BSc (1988), MSc (1990), and PhD (1999) [all from the University of Auckland] (the PhD took forever as I was also working at the time - not something I would recommend if you can help it).

Between 1985 and 1991 I made a living as a marine biological consultant in Auckland, with my basic role being one of collecting and identifying marine invertebrates in coastal intertidal and subtidal environmental impact assessments. I wasn't really happy doing this sort of work, as it was painfully obvious that the results always favoured the client rather than the environment; I saw some shocking things happen (I wasn't the one making the decisions). Some time in 1987 I met some commercial deep-sea fishermen in a bar (I don't know how I ended up there of course) and had some marvellous sessions (a truly great bunch of people), and was soon invited out to sea in order to experience some of this weird and wonderful deep-sea life that he was fanatical about (it turns out the fishermen thought I was nuts). Well, many months were spent at sea between then and 1991 - to the disdain of my University professors.

To continue funding my way through university, not being one to learn from past mistakes, I formed Marine Environmental Research (MER Ltd), an environmental research company, in 1992, and continued with environmental contract work at an intensified rate through until 1995. I didn't get much university work done during this time.

Then, late in 1994, I got a phone call from the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA for short; formerly the New Zealand Oceanographic Institute, NZOI) in Wellington, asking me if I wanted a job. I said yes and that's when the roller coaster ride started. From January of 1995 to 2003 I spent pretty much every waking (and most sleeping) moments either thinking about or working on the marine environment. Unfortunately, too little time was dedicated to working on squid and octopus, and my publication record suffered severely as a consequence (although I did do many confidential reports; but this sort of output is invisible to the scientific community). Basically my job involved working on deep-sea fauna rather than shallow-water fauna with which I had greater experience (at the time). I also was responsible for developing and curating the rather enormous marine collections that NIWA held, and accordingly was exposed to a fantastic diversity of marine life and some rather interesting, colourful people.

At some point, shortly after joining NIWA, I encountered this squid by the name of Architeuthis. Then came the cameras ...... and things were never the same. I had never intended to be in front of a camera, and certainly never intended to lead expedition looking for Architeuthis, because I'm a rather reclusive and intensely private fellow. But life plays little games on you and soon I found myself doing what I said I never would.

It is hard to sum up 7 years of work in a paragraph, but, as things happen, in mid-2002 I received yet another phone call (I have had more than two phone calls in 7 years, but those were the biggies) - one that I wasn't really expecting. I was given an opportunity to return to university, to do what I really wanted to do. Teach. My first reaction was 'yes', but then insecurity crept in, and I saw myself saying goodbye to all of those things that were dear to me - the squid, the collections and a few good friends. So the decision to move wasn't an easy one to make, and things were stacking up against a move. Then I met TONMO.com's very own Tintenfish (Kat Bolstad), first online, later fresh off a plane from the United States, and like two peas in a pod a friendship developed. Well, Kat expressed a willingness to stay in New Zealand and study cephalopods, so the gears were now in motion and I resigned from NIWA - I simply couldn't help there with all the other work pressures. A few months later we were both in Auckland - Kat doing her PhD on the systematics of hooked squids (Onychoteuthidae), me trying to do everything I did at NIWA and more. I look forward to further TONMO.com recruits.

Well, that's basically who I am and how I got here. My interests I suppose could be condensed into the systematics, biogeography, comparative morphology (and a little bit of function) and culture of cephalopods. It is a huge research field, and involves many like-minded people scattered around the globe - but there is plenty of opportunity for more people! I'm also interested in developing techniques for fixing and preserving marine invertebrates, and the systematics of marine invertebrates in general.

Although I haven't written any readily available books, I have published a little on cephalopods and deep-sea life in general, with a bibliography of some of the more science-oriented publications detailed below. Having said this I am currently working on a book on giant squid for children, and have been approached to write something else, so you just never know what will come out from one day to the next.

Select bibliography

O'Shea, S. (in press). Phylum Mollusca, Class Cephalopoda, Order Octopoda. In Cook, S. de C. (Ed) New Zealand Coastal Marine Invertebrates, volume 1. Canterbury University Press, Christchurch.

Beatson, E.; O'Shea, S.; Shortland, T.; Stone, C. 2007. Notes on New Zealand Marine mammals 6. Second report on stomach contents of long-finned pilot whales, Globicephala melas. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 34: 359-362.

O'Shea, S.; Jackson, G.; Bolstad, K.S. 2007. The nomenclatural status, ontogeny and morphology of Pholidoteuthis massyae (Pfeffer, 1912) new comb (Cephalopoda: Pholidoteuthidae). Reviews in Fish Biology & Fisheries 17(2-3): 425-435.

Beatson, E.L.; O'Shea, S.; Ogle, M. 2007. The diet of the long-finned pilot whale, Globicephala melas, stranded in New Zealand: implications for conservation. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 34: 51-56.

Adkins, J.F.; Henderson, G.M.; Wang, S. –L.; O'Shea, S.; Mokadem, F. 2004. Growth rates of the deep-sea Scleractinia Desmophyllum cristigalli and Enalopsammia rostrata. Earth & Planetary Science Letters 227: 481-490.

O'Shea, S.; Bolstad, K.S.; Ritchie, P.A. 2004. First records of egg masses of Nototodarus gouldi McCoy, 1888 (Cephalopoda: Ommastrephidae), with comments on egg-mass susceptibility to damage by fisheries trawl. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 31: 161-166.

Rowden, A.A.; Clark, M.R.; O'Shea, S. 2004. Benthic biodiversity of seamounts on the Northland Plateau. Marine Biodiversity Biosecurity Report 5: 21pp.

O'Shea, S. 2004. The giant octopus Haliphron atlanticus (Mollusca: Octopoda) in New Zealand waters. New Zealand Journal of Zoology, 31: 7-13.

Bolstad, K.S.; O'Shea, S. 2004. Gut contents of a giant squid Architeuthis dux (Cephalopoda: Oegopsida) from New Zealand waters. New Zealand Journal of Zoology, 31: 15-21.

Rowden, A.A.; Clark, M. R.; O'Shea, S.; McKnight, D. 2003. Benthic biodiversity of seamounts on the southern Kermadec volcanic arc. Marine Biodiversity Biosecurity Report 3: 1-23.

Tracey, D.; Neil, H.; Gordon, D.; O'Shea, S. 2003. Chronicles of the deep: aging deep-sea corals in New Zealand.NIWA, Water & Atmosphere 11(2): 22-24.

Jackson, G. D.; O'Shea, S. 2003. Unique hooks in the male scaled squid Lepidoteuthis grimaldii. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 83: 1099-1100.

Jackson, G.D.; O'Shea, S. 2003. Unique saber-like hooks of a large deep-sea squid. MBA News, 29 April 2003.

O'Shea, S.; Lu, C.C. 2002. A new species of Luteuthis from the South China Sea. Zoological Studies 41(2): 119-126.

Rowden, A.A.; O'Shea, S.; Clark, M.R. 2002. Benthic biodiversity of seamounts on the northwest Chatham Rise.Marine Biodiversity Biosecurity Report 2: 1-21.

Cryer, M.; Hartill, B.; O'Shea, S. 2002. Modification of marine benthos by trawling: towards a generalization for the deep ocean? Ecological Applications 12(6): 1824-1839.

O'Shea, S.; Manire, C. 2001. Saving sperm whales: the search for squid is on. Seafood New Zealand 9(9): 45-48.

Clark, M.; O'Shea, S. 2001. Hydrothermal vent and seamount fauna from the southern Kermadec Ridge, New Zealand. InterRidge News 10(2): 14-17.

O'Shea, S.; Clark, M.; Raethke, N. 2000. Bathysquilla microps a spectacular new deep-sea crustacean from New Zealand. Seafood New Zealand 8(9): 36.

O'Shea, S. 1999. The Marine Fauna of New Zealand: Octopoda (Mollusca: Cephalopoda). NIWA Biodiversity Memoir 112: 280pp.

Cryer, M.; Coburn, R.; Hartill, B.; O'Shea, S.; Kendrick, T.; Doonan, I. 1999. Scampi Stock Assessment for 1998 and an analysis of the fish and invertebrate bycatch of scampi trawlers. New Zealand Fisheries Assessment Research Document 99(4): 75pp.

Clark, M.; Wright, I.; Wood, B.; O'Shea, S.; McKnight, D. 1999. New Research on Seamounts. Seafood New Zealand 7(1): 31-34.

O'Shea, S.; McKnight, D.; Clark, M. 1999. Bycatch: the common, unique and bizarre. Seafood New Zealand 7(5): 45-51.

Landman, N.H.; Klofak, S.M.; O'Shea, S.; Mikkelson, P.M. 1999. A giant squid in New York City. In: Histon, K. (ed): V International Symposium on Cephalopods, Present and Past, Vienna: 72.

O'Shea, S. 1999. Giant Squid. Seafood New Zealand 7(11): 34-35.

O'Shea, S. 1998. The deep-sea finned Octopoda of New Zealand. Seafood New Zealand 6(9): 26-28.

O'Shea, S. 1998. The deep-sea non-finned Octopoda of New Zealand. Seafood New Zealand 6(11): 35-38.

O'Shea, S. 1997. A new technique for assessing fixation-induced morphological variation in octopus (Mollusca: Cephalopoda). New Zealand Journal of Zoology 24: 163-166.

O'Shea, S. 1997. Status of three Octopoda recorded from New Zealand, based on beaks recovered from long-distance foraging marine predators. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 24(3): 265-266.

O'Shea, S. 1997. Giant squid in New Zealand waters. Seafood New Zealand 5(10): 32-34.

O'Shea, S.; Kubodera, T. 1996. Eggs and larvae of Graneledone sp. (Mollusca: Octopoda) from New Zealand.Bulletin of the National Science Museum, Tokyo, ser. A. Zoology 22: 153-164.


Two papers, both on different aspects of giant squid (Architeuthis dux) biology and genetics.

Further papers in preparation include:

A revision of the New Zealand squid fauna, for Memoir publication (anticipated date June 2010)

A description of the colossal squid

A redescription of three rather nifty squids, very poorly known to science (but they still have names)

Descriptions of several new species of deep-sea squid around New Zealand.

And descriptions of sperm whale diet based on those beaks.

Documentaries. There are quite a few now. I've done quite a bit of work for German, Canadian and American documentary companies from 1997 to present, and am now what they refer to as a Discovery Channel Quest Scholar. Make sure you subscribe to Discovery Channel as I think there are going to be some pretty neat documentaries coming out over the next few years.

And that's it from me.
Original publish date
Mar 18, 2004
About the Author
Steve O'Shea
Steve is an expert in the systematics and biogeography of cephalopods, and joined the TONMO.com staff in June 2002. He can be seen on the Discovery Channel documentary, Chasing Giants: On the Trail of the Giant Squid. For more information, see his Autobiography and Select Bibliography (2003). Dr. O'Shea lives in New Zealand.


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