Mantle short, cup-like. Fins in adults extending beyond mantle end. Arms in larvae shorter than mantle, in adults arm length not more than 1.5 times ML. Outer arm web absent, inner vestigial. Arm suckers rather large in juveniles, globular, in adults with smooth or serrated margin. Club suckers in 4 rows on manus, equal in larvae, of different size in adults, median 3 much larger than others. Buccal membrane with 7 lappets.
Ventral mantle photophores intermixed large and small, large ones distributed in approximately 7 diagonal rows, each with 9 photophores; 4 photophores along midline of ventral side of head; 4 longitudinal rows of photophores (3 rows of large, 1 short row of small) at the base of 4th arms, 2-3 on 1st-3rd arms; no elongate black photophores on arm ends; 17 large and 1 small photophore around right eye; an arch of 7 large photophores anterior to, and 10-14 small ones lateral and posterior to left eye. Skin not papillate. Larvae with large eyes, globular arm suckers, mantle and head photophores develop at ML approximately 5 mm. Larvae covered by many large chromatophores. Egg size: length 1.8 mm, width 1.5 mm. ML up to 18-19 cm.
Histioteuthis reversa does not occur in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and South Atlantic Central Water Mass, but is common in the Mediterranean Sea, reaching 22-23°S off Namibia.