Introduction to Cuttlefish (Sepia sp.)




Cuttlefish belong to the class Cephalopoda, order Sepioidea, genus Sepia. They are benthic and typically live in warm and temperate near shore waters. They eat shrimp, crab, small fishes, and sometimes other cuttlefish (Roper, 2008). Cuttlefish lay eggs that hatch within a few weeks to 2 months, dependent on environmental conditions. They live from 1 to 2 years (Roper, 2008). Cuttlefish have the largest brain-to-body ratio of the invertebrates. Their mouth is surrounded by 8 arms and 2 long tentacles that all have chitinous ringed suckers. These tentacles are primarily used for feeding. The cuttlefish uses its 8 arms to lure in prey and then shoots out its two tentacles from a pocket at the base if its arms to capture its prey ("NOVA," 2007). The arms are also used as a defense mechanism as the cuttlefish sucks in water to its mantle cavity and spreads its arms wide to make their bodies appear larger than its predator ("NOVA," 2007). Cuttlefish move by jet propulsion by sucking in water into their mantle cavity and then forcefully shooting this water out its siphon.

Camouflage Patterns
Choosing the best camouflage
How does it work?
Vertical Aspects in background
Predator Evasion
Camouflage in Juveniles
Night Camouflage
Literature Cited
External Links


Left: Arms and tentacles of the giant Australian cuttlefish. Right: Sepia officinalis. Images courtesy Andy Murch (


Like its cephalopod relatives, the cuttlefish contains an ink sac that it uses to escape predators ("NOVA," 2007). The cuttlefish is most commonly recognized for its ability to change its skin color and texture almost instantly. It does this for camouflage purposes as well as social purposes, such as mating displays. Cuttlefish are considered to have the most sophisticated form of camouflage in the Animal Kingdom (Chiao et al., 2005). Cuttlefish achieve their vast array of body patterns through the use of thousands of chromatophores located in their mantle ("NOVA," 2007). Cuttlefish are important to humans for several reasons. They are important in world fisheries, as 200,000 metric tons of cuttlefish are caught for human consumption each year. Furthermore, artists have used cuttlefish ink, sepia, for hundreds of years (Roper, 2008). Perhaps their most important contribution to humans is their usefulness in studying camouflage. They are model organisms for studying camouflage because they can quickly change their skin rapidly. The most common species of cuttlefish used for research is the European cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis (Shohet et al., 2007).




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