Cuttlefish physical characteristics
- skin type
- 3 kg – 10.5 kg (6.6 lb – 23 lb)
- 15 cm – 50 cm (5.9 inches – 20 inches)
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With flexible tentacles, ink production and a keen intelligence, the squid is a remarkable sea creature.
Despite the name, it's not a fish at all, but a type of cephalopod. This puts it in the same class as squid, nautilus, and octopus. It's often said that cephalopods are akin to aliens from Earth, because it's a very intelligent but very different form of life from us. They last shared a common ancestor with land animals around hundreds of millions of years ago.
5 Incredible Cuttlefish Facts
- All cuttlefish have a thick inner shell called the cuttlebone , from which the name apparently derives. Cuttlebone is composed of the mineral aragonite, which has atoms of calcium, carbon and oxygen.
- This creature evolved during the Miocene 21 million years ago . Its ancestor may have come from an extinct cephalopod order, the Arrowman. Unlike many modern cephalopods, Arrowmantosaurus had a complete skeleton.
- Sepia ink has been used as a dye and medicine throughout human history.
- With its curved, W-shaped eyes , this fish has the remarkable ability to perceive extremely high contrasts of light that the human eye normally cannot see. Contrast is the difference between white light and dark light. However, as a trade-off, squid cannot see color.
- Some cuttlefish species are capable of producing poisonous venom to ward off predators.
Want to learn more about cuttlefish? Check out "10 Impressive Cuttlefish Facts" for more information on cuttlefish color variations and intelligence!
The scientific name of squid is Sepiida , which refers to the entire order. The word Sepiida is derived from the Greek and Latin words sepia , referring to the name of the dye produced from its ink. Sepia is now a reddish-brown English word.
About 120 species of cuttlefish are still alive. Here are just a few of them:
- Common Cuttlefish: As the name suggests, this is one of the most widespread species of cuttlefish in the world. The common squid, which does not exceed 19 inches in size, lives mainly in the waters of the Mediterranean, North Sea and Baltic Seas.
- Pharaoh cuttlefish: This is a large cuttlefish that inhabits the Pacific Ocean between Japan and Australia, west to the Red Sea. It is usually hunted for food in the Philippines, India and Persia.
- Showy Cuttlefish: This species is named for the rather bright and rich color patterns on its mantle. The species, endemic to Australian and Southeast Asian waters, produces an acid that makes it unsuitable for human consumption. This small species is only a few inches long.
Cuttlefish are among the oldest creatures that swim the oceans today. Scientists believe the first cuttlefish emerged from their ancestors about 500 million years ago. Early cuttlefish were very similar to their cousin the nautilus, encased in a similar protective shell. Soon, ancient squid began to develop camouflage traits, fine-tuning and perfecting their strategies for blending into the environment, over millions of years until the shell was no longer necessary for their survival.
Cuttlefish are able to use their camouflage by activating the 20 million chromatophores in their skin — specialized cells that control pigmentation. In addition to protecting themselves from predators, squid have evolved to use their color-changing skin to communicate with their species, and male squid often display complex color patterns to attract mates.
appearance and behavior
One look at this fish will tell it is a true cephalopod. Its body is similar to that of the closely related squid and octopus, only much smaller. The smallest squid species are only an inch or two. The largest species is the Australian giant cuttlefish, which can reach a length of 20 inches and weigh about 23 pounds.
Cuttlefish are characterized by a gas-filled internal cuttlebone (which actually provides buoyancy and control rather than protection), a long, relatively flat body, a parrot-like beak, and long fins that run along the sides. It also has eight arms and two tentacles containing a series of suction cups for catching prey. The arms and tentacles can be retracted into the two pouches at any time. Cuttlefish are also one of the few animals with multiple hearts. They have a total of three different hearts!
Two of the hearts supply its gills with blue-green blood, while the third provides oxygen to the rest of its body. Why is its blood blue-green instead of red?
Because cuttlefish blood contains hemocyanin, which itself contains copper, rather than hemoglobin, which contains iron.
Cuttlefish move through the water at incredible speeds using jet propulsion. It sucks in water through its body cavity and expels it with powerful muscles. Fins allow it to maneuver at high speeds. This mode of transport is essential to avoid very fast and agile predators.
Another incredible ability is color changing. Cuttlefish contain millions of small pigment cells called chromatophores that allow the creature to change its color and pattern over time. When the squid flexes its muscles, the pigment is released into the skin, blending in with its surroundings. This is used for many purposes such as disguising oneself, attracting a mate, and communicating with other squid. The color change may also help to stun prey with quick and weak flashes.
Compared to most invertebrates, cuttlefish have a fairly large brain and body size. Research shows that it is capable of varying degrees of problem solving and object manipulation. This intelligence may be necessary to manipulate extremely complex tentacles and arms, which contain vast numbers of brain-like neurons.
Cuttlefish Distribution, Population and Habitat
Squid are found throughout the oceans of Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, but almost none in the Americas. Throughout its natural range, the animal exhibits an annual migratory pattern. It inhabits the coastal waters of tropical or temperate regions in summer. In winter, it migrates to deeper waters of the ocean.
Unfortunately, many squid species have no data on population numbers, according to the IUCN Red List, which tracks the conservation status of many animals. When data were available, almost all species were classified as least concerned. Only a few species are endangered.
Cuttlefish have a fairly simple diet consisting of fish, crab, and other molluscs. Larger cuttlefish also have a tendency to prey on juveniles or smaller species of cuttlefish. They use their beaks, which are located in the mantle between their arms, to crack open the hard shells of their prey and feast on the delicious meat inside. For a comprehensive analysis of what squid eat, we published What do squid eat? 10 of their favorite diets.
Due to their small size, cuttlefish are preyed upon by a variety of larger fish, dolphins, seals, birds and other molluscs. But it does have several defense mechanisms to help it survive. When threatened, squid release a cloud of ink to confuse predators before making a bold escape. Speed is a distinct advantage over slower predators. The venom of some species also provides a valuable defense.
Reproduction and Lifespan
Cuttlefish have a very organized and straightforward reproductive cycle. During the annual breeding season between spring and summer, males put on spectacular mating displays, changing colors and patterns to impress females. Once accepted, the male uses his modified arms to transfer the sperm into the female's mantle near the mouth to fertilize the egg.
A fertilized female then lays 100 to 300 eggs at a time on rocks, seaweed, or other surfaces. After an average of one or two months, she alone tends to the eggs until they hatch. Shortly after their duties are done, both males and females die to pass to the next generation. Cuttlefish take up to 18 months to reach sexual maturity, but their life expectancy is only one or two years. This means they tend to die after one mating season.
Cuttlefish in Fishing and Cooking
Cuttlefish is a popular dish in coastal regions of Europe and East Asia. It can be prepared in a variety of ways: breaded, fried, grilled or chopped. Ink can be eaten on its own or with other cuttlefish.
Types of cuttlefish
Earlier we talked about some of the most famous cuttlefish species, below you can find a full list of each type of this camouflaged cephalopod:
- Metasepia pfefferi (showy cuttlefish)
- Metasepia tullbergi (Colored ink cuttlefish)
- tan mira
- Tan Subplane
- Sepia Elliptica (Oval Bone Cuttlefish)
- Sepia aculeata (needle cuttlefish)
- Sepia brevimana (Shortclub Cuttlefish)
- Sepia esculenta (Golden cuttlefish)
- Sepia lycidas (kiss cuttlefish)
- Sepia prashadi (hooded cuttlefish)
- Sepia recurvirostra (Curvespine Cuttlefish)
- Sepia savignyi (broad-backed cuttlefish)
- Sepia smithi (Smith cuttlefish)
- Sepia zanzibarica (Zanzibar cuttlefish)
- Sepia australis (Southern squid)
- Sepia omani (Omani cuttlefish)
- Sepia sulcata (ditch cuttlefish)
- Cuttlefish (Andrea Cuttlefish)
- Sepia arabica (Arabian cuttlefish)
- golden spot tan
- deep sea squid
- Sepia braggi (slender cuttlefish)
- Tan cotton
- Sepia kobiensis (Kobi squid)
- Tan Koi
- Sepia longipes (long-armed cuttlefish)
- Sepia lorigera (spider cuttlefish)
- Exotic Squid
- Sepia murrayi (Frog cuttlefish)
- tokyo squid
- Sepia trygonina (Trident cuttlefish)
- vietnamese squid
- Sepia cultrata (sword bone cuttlefish)
- Sepia elegans (Elegant cuttlefish)
- Sepia hedleyi (Hedley cuttlefish)
- Sepia madokai (Madokai's cuttlefish)
- Sepia orbignyana (Pink cuttlefish)
- Tan tyrannosaur
- Sepia apama (giant cuttlefish)
- Sepia bandensis (Spiney cuttlefish)
- Sepia bertheloti (African squid)
- Sepia elobyana (Guinean cuttlefish)
- Sepia hierredda (Giant African cuttlefish)
- Sepia latimanus (Broadclub cuttlefish)
- Sepia mestus (harvesting cuttlefish)
- Sepia novaehollandiae (New Holland cuttlefish)
- Sepia officinalis (European cuttlefish)
- Sepia papuensis (Papuan cuttlefish)
- Sepia pharaonis (Pharaonic cuttlefish)
- Sepia plangon (mourning cuttlefish)
- Squid Ramani
- Sepia rozella (Rosecone cuttlefish)
- Sepia vermiculata (Patchwork Cuttlefish)
- Sepiella inermis (Boneless Cuttlefish)
- Sepiella japonica (Japanese Boneless Cuttlefish)
- Mangkang Squid
- Sepiella ornata (Ornate Cuttlefish)
- Webster squid
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Cuttlefish FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What do squid eat?
Cuttlefish often eat a variety of fish, crabs, and molluscs. It is also not shy about eating other species of cuttlefish.
What phylum do squid belong to?
Cuttlefish belong to the phylum Molluscs. This is the second largest phylum of invertebrates (meaning animals without a backbone) in the world. About 85,000 species of living molluscs are found in the main groups of snails, cephalopods and bivalves.
Where do squid live?
Cuttlefish inhabit the coastal areas of Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. They migrate to deep water during the cold season.
Are cuttlefish dangerous to humans?
The humble squid poses little danger to humans. Some species can inject venom into their victims, but since contact with humans is minimal, this is not a significant risk.
Can I eat cuttlefish?
Cuttlefish are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. With the exception of a few species that contain harmful compounds, almost all cuttlefish are edible.
To which kingdom do cuttlefish belong?
Cuttlefish belong to the animal kingdom.
Which category do cuttlefish belong to?
Cuttlefish belong to the cephalopod class.
What phylum do squid belong to?
Cuttlefish belong to the phylum Molluscs.
What family do cuttlefish belong to?
Cuttlefish belong to the family Sepiida.
What order do cuttlefish belong to?
Cuttlefish belong to full purpose.
What type of mulch does Cuttlefish have?
Cuttlefish are covered with smooth skin.
Who are the natural enemies of cuttlefish?
Predators of cuttlefish include fish, sharks, and cuttlefish.
What are the distinctive features of cuttlefish?
Squids have long bodies and large eyes.
How many babies does a cuttlefish have?
The average number of pups for a cuttlefish is 200.
Any fun facts about cuttlefish?
Cuttlefish are found in oceans all over the world!
What is the scientific name of squid?
The scientific name of squid is Sepiida.
How many kinds of cuttlefish are there?
There are 120 species of cuttlefish.
How do cuttlefish give birth?
Cuttlefish lay eggs.
What is the difference between cuttlefish and squid?
Cuttlefish are much smaller than squid, and they also have fans on the sides of their heads, which squid usually don't. Read all about their differences here!
how to say cuttlefish in
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- Encyclopaedia Britannica, available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/cuttlefish
- Thought Co., available here: https://www.thoughtco.com/facts-about-cuttlefish-2291937
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