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.