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Feature Creature - Cuttlefish

Credits: Paul Naylor

Have you heard of the CUTTLEFISH? After the stormy spring weather, beachcombers might be more likely to find cuttlefish bones washing up on along the coast. This is often the closest many of us will ever get to this amazing sea creature, but there is more to this mollusc than you might think.

Fantastic facts:

 

*Life span: 1-2 years     *Super-powers: Intelligence and colour changes

 

*Enemies: Dolphins, seals, sharks, big fish and other cuttlefish!    

 

*Favourite foods: Small fish, shrimps, worms, crabs and soft-bodied sea creatures

 

*Latin name: Sepia officinalis (sepia - dark brown pigment, officinalis - used in medicine)

 

What are these curious creatures and what can they do? Cuttlefish are:

 

Masters of disguise 

 

Cuttlefish are famous for their ability to quickly change the colour of their skin, and sometimes even the texture. This allows young cuttlefish to hide from hungry predators by blending into the sea floor and may help with catching prey. It also allows adult cuttlefish to communicate with each other. Particularly during breeding, cuttlefish flush many different dark or light colours and can ripple paterns across their bodies. This helps to attact mates and show mood to rivals, with dark colours thought to be aggressive and light colours admitting defeat!   

 

Escape artists

 

The cuttlefish gets its scientific name from the dark brown ink it produces which was traditionally used as a dye and drawing fluid. The cuttlefish squirts this ink in a dark cloud when threatened, helping to conceal its escape and confuse predators.

 

Budgie food  

 

If you have a budgie at home, you may already give it a special white block to nibble to provide the calcium it needs for strong and healthy feathers, claws and beak. Many pet shops sell cuttlebone to do this, but have you ever wondered where it comes from ? This is the lightweight inner part of the cuttlefish that helps give their soft body structure and also enables them to float.

 

 

 

If you want to try and find your own cuttlebone on a beach near you, check out Nick Baker's awesome new guide to beachcombing on the Wildlife Watch YouTube channel for his top tips! 

 

Worldwide 

 

The species of cuttlefish found in UK waters - mostly along the south and west coasts - is just one of many across the world. Have a look at the video below of an octopus entertaining an Australian diver. Can you guess where the cuttlefish might come in...?