Flamboyant Cuttlefish – Tiny but deadly!
Pfeffer’s flamboyant cuttlefish, Metasepia pfefferi is one of the smallest cuttlefish growing up to 8cm in length and the prettiest of the species making it a favorite subject for scuba divers and underwater photographers.
Flamboyant cuttlefish are typical muck dwellers
Flamboyant cuttlefish 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 at Bali dive sites such as the Blue Lagoon at Padang Bai, in the black volcanic sand of Amed and the world famous USAT Liberty wreck at Tulamben. Often active during the day and have been observed hunting small fish and crustaceans.
They can’t swim very well!
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, actually “walk” along the bottom of the seabed, displaying stunning changing colors and patterns, the only cuttlefish species known to do so.
They will squirt ink at you if annoyed!
Like other cuttlefish, the flamboyant uses their ink to deceive predators. It will eject the ink from it’s funnel into the water to form an ink cloud while it swims to safety. However, it’s a very small squirt!
Did you know that cuttlefish ink was the original sepia which was once used by artists – nowadays replaced mostly with synthetic sepia.
Here’s the deadly bit.
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.
And then they die after mating
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!
A bit of a hard life for the tiny creature!
The black volcanic sand of Bali’s Tulamben dive sites is great for all sorts of critters including Pygmy seahorse. Read more about pygmy seahorse here