Western Morning News (Saturday)



UNLESS you are a scuba diver or fisherman you are unlikely to come across common cuttlefish in the wild, however you may well find their chalky internal shell, called a cuttlebone, washed up along a beach (familiar also in pet stores as a calcium-rich supplement fed to cage birds such as budgies).

Cuttlefish, which are found around our South West shores, are related to squid and octopus and have highly-developed eyes and a large head with eight ‘arms’ and two elongated tentacles armed with suckers used to grab food.

One of the most extraordin­ary things about cuttlefish, along with their general rather alien appearance, is their ability to alter their colour in an instant using pigment-containing skin chromatoph­ores – though surprising­ly they are colour-blind.

They change appearance to blend in with their surroundin­gs and hide from predators or to put on a show of pulsing patterns to impress a potential mate. From birth, young cuttlefish can display at least 13 differing types of body pattern.

Cuttlefish are expert hunters, catching fish and crabs – whose shells they can crush with their hard beak-like mouthparts. They are also intelligen­t for an invertebra­te, with a proportion­ately large brain, though do not live beyond two years.

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