Ryan Photographic - Sepiida - Cuttlefish


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Order Sepiida

Currently there are around 120 species of cuttlefish and bobtail squid. The cuttlefish are in the family Sepiida while the 8 known bottletail squid are in the family Sepiadariidae. Cuttlefish possess an aragonite "skeleton" - the cuttle bone. They are able to fine tune their bouyancy by varying the amount of gas contained in its porous structure.

I fell in love with cuttlefish the moment I saw my first one. It was off the beach of Treasure Island in Fiji. It was in the early days of my underwater photography and my home made flash housing wasn't working. I decided to finish the dive and was headed ashore when I saw a broadclub cuttlefish. It had its tentacles in the "cockatoo" position and there was nowhere obvious for it to hide. So it just floated there, pulsating colors at me as it hovered in the water. I was entranced and slowly swam closer, expecting the cuttlefish to swim away at any moment. But it didn't, it stayed at eye level and continued to "flash me". I became a little bolder and gently extended my right index finger towards it. The cuttlefish slowly unfurled a tentacle from the cockatoo "crest" and sent it out towards my finger. I held my breath, worried the expulsion of bubbles would deter it. The tentacle wrapped itself around my finger, reminsicent of that famous scene in ET or for those of you more high brow - the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel (you decide who was playing the role of God). We stayed like this for as long as my air lasted - perhaps another 20 minutes. For the entire time we just looked at each other, the cuttle providing me with an amazing light display and me providing the cuttle with a willng and admiring audience. No matter that a colleague subsequently told me it was probably a male trying to seduce a "female" - I left the water on a high that lasted for the rest of the day and just writing about it now brings with it an enormous sense of privilege, awe and relaxation.

All cuttlefish are predators, capturing prey with an incredibly fast strike with specialized tentacles. The victim is brought to the mouth where the beak injects venomous saliva which kills prey AND starts the process of digestion. The flamboyant cuttlefish Metasepia pfefferi (below) has toxic flesh and may advertize this fact through its bright color patterns.

Cuttlefish range in size from the tiny (a few cms) to the relatively large (0.5m) and possess extraordinary skin color change ability. A study has shown that at least one cuttlefish species is color blind so how this species (and the others if it istrue for all cuttlefish) achieve color matching with their background is unknown. Most species are also capable of puckering their skin to break up their outline and match their substrate. If the mimicking of their background doesn't deter a predator, cuttlefish will "ink" - releasing the contents of their ink sac in a dark cloud. This apparently confuses the predator and enables the cuttlefish to jet away. The ink, the well known "sepia" (Greek for "cuttlefish") was widely used as a dye until modern synthetics replaced it.

During mating small cuttlefish, incapable of fighting dominant males, practice a form of "cross-dressing". They will display female coloration to males, avoiding confrontation and thereby allowing them to get close enough to the females to transfer sperm.

Cuttlefish are not found in the Americas but are widely distributed in the tropics.

 

Metasepia pfefferi Flamboyant cuttlefish

Metasepia pfefferi, Flamboyant cuttlefish, Lembeh Straits

MOLL 6677 Metasepia pfefferi, Flamboyant cuttlefish, Lembeh Straits

Metasepia pfefferi, Flamboyant cuttlefish, Lembeh Straits

MOLL 6686 Metasepia pfefferi, Flamboyant cuttlefish, Lembeh Straits

Metasepia pfefferi, Flamboyant cuttlefish, Lembeh Straits

MOLL 6681 Metasepia pfefferi, Flamboyant cuttlefish, Lembeh Straits

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Metasepia pfefferi, Flamboyant cuttlefish, Lembeh Straits - Blu-ray quality available.

Sepia aculeata Needle cuttlefish

Sepia aculeata Needle cuttlefish, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat

MOLL 7762 Sepia aculeata Needle cuttlefish, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat.

Sepia aculeata Needle cuttlefish

MOLL 7763 Sepia aculeata Needle cuttlefish, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat.

Sepia aculeata Needle cuttlefish

MOLL 7764 Sepia aculeata Needle cuttlefish, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat.

Sepia aculeata Needle cuttlefish
MOLL 7765 Sepia aculeata Needle cuttlefish, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat.

Sepia aculeata Needle cuttlefish, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat

MOLL 7766 Sepia aculeata Needle cuttlefish, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat.

Sepia aculeata Needle cuttlefish, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat

MOLL 7767 Sepia aculeata Needle cuttlefish, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat.

Sepia latimanus Broadclub cuttlefish

Broadclub cuttelfish

MOLL 1130 Sepia latimanus, Broadclub cuttlefish, Kri Eco, Raja Ampat, West Papua

Broadclub cuttlefish

Sepia latimanus reef cuttlefish, Sulawesi

Sepia papuensis Papuan cuttlefish

sepia papuensis papuan cuttlefish

MOLL 3924 Sepia papuenis Papuan cuttlefish, Raja Ampat, West Papua. (It is possible these are young broadclub cuttlefish ... I lack the expertise to identify these guys accurately).

papuan cuttlefish

MOLL 0442 Sepia papuenis Papuan cuttlefish in "cockatoo" position, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

camouflaged Papuan cuttlefish

MOLL 0436 Sepia papuenis Papuan cuttlefish, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

camoulfaged papuan cuttlefish

MOLL 0510 Sepia papuenis Papuan cuttlefish, Raja Ampat, West Papua.

 

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