Creature Feature — Flamboyant Cuttlefish
Pfeffer’s flamboyant cuttlefish, Metasepia pfefferi, are a favorite of underwater photographers. They display stunning changing colours and patterns and actually “walk” along the bottom of the sea, the only cuttlefish species known to do so. These tiny cuttlefish only grow up to 8cm in length, and like all cuttlefish have a ‘cuttlebone’ that they use for buoyancy. The flamboyant’s cuttlebone is extra-small and so they have a hard time with buoyancy, finding it hard to swim and hover midwater like other cuttlefish. They can’t swim for very long without sinking to the bottom; instead, they crawl on the seafloor like an octopus.
Habitat & Distribution
They are found in tropical shallow Indo-Pacific waters off northern Australia, southern New Guinea, as well as numerous islands of the Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia. They like shallow waters and muddy or sandy substrates and sometimes reef associated around the rubble zone and are spotted in Bali diving sites such as Padang Bai and Tulamben. They are active during the day and have been observed hunting small fish and crustaceans.
These beautiful cuttlefish get their name from the flamboyant pink, yellow and black ripples they make with their bodies when alarmed. They are the only species of cuttlefish known to have any poisons and they carry a unique toxin in their muscles. Research has shown the toxin to be as lethal as that of fellow cephalopod the Blue-ringed octopus. Like other cuttlefish, the flamboyant uses their ink to deceive predators. It will eject the ink from its funnel into the water to form an ink cloud while it swims to safety. Cuttlefish ink was the original sepia which was once used by artists – nowadays replaced mostly with synthetic sepia.
Like other cephalopods, the flamboyant cuttlefish breeds once and then dies. Copulation takes place face to face. The male inserts a packet of sperm into a pouch on the underside of the female’s mantle and the female then fertilises her eggs with the sperm. The eggs are laid singly and placed in crevices or on ledges in coral, rock or wood or even the odd coconut shell!
If you like macro and into underwater photography, check out our 3 day macro package