Jan 27

#LoveSpecies nominee: common cuttlefish

Nominated by: Marine Conservation Society UK

Why do you love them?

The common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) is an incredible creature that we believe deserves more love. Amongst the most intelligent invertebrates known, cuttlefish will definitely appreciate the love we give them.

Cuttlefish have incredible eyesight and an odd W-shaped eyelid that allows them to have panoramic vision. Despite their eyesight being advanced, it is thought that they are colour-blind, which is even more amazing as their skill in visual camouflage is unprecedented. Even in the dark, cuttlefish can detect textures and colour from the environment to help them camouflage. It is not truly understood how they can do this, but the cuttlefish clearly has a unique perspective and relationship with the physical world that we are yet to understand. This mysterious creature also has three hearts so clearly has the potential to return our love in a triple heartfelt way!

What are the threats to the common cuttlefish?

Cuttlefish, like other cephalopods, are extremely sensitive to environmental variability and their populations can fluctuate rapidly. In order to know how many cuttlefish we can catch, we must understand how various climate and ocean variables are changing and how cuttlefish react to those important variables. The acidity of the water is particularly important to cuttlefish as it affects the density of their cuttlebone and therefore impacts their buoyancy. If we catch too many cuttlefish any year, there may be too few adults to spawn the following years. Cuttlefish are more frequently fished for and are often caught as bycatch.

Often there is little data available about the level of cuttlefish catches per year. Having so little data is a problem as we often don’t know how many cuttlefish that we remove from our seas, making it difficult to understand how many are left to spawn in the future.

What we do to protect them?

One of our collective aims at the Marine Conservation Society is to raise awareness of important marine habitats, to create a network of marine protected areas (MPA’s) in the UK and encourage the government to legally establish and protect a network of habitats. One of our established areas lie below the white cliffs of Dover and offers an attractive habitat for the common cuttlefish. The intertidal and subtidal chalk has formed unique reefs, ledges, gullies and sand pits where young cuttlefish can thrive as they develop their amazing camouflage skills. Our campaigns also aim to highlight the importance of collecting data on commercial fishing and bycatch, which may prove valuable for the government to further protect cuttlefish and other species alike.

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Apr 1

Today is April Fool’s Day, a 12-hour window where everybody needs to be on their guard as friends, relatives and colleagues do their best to fool and out-smart them. If you are plotting a prank, remember to carry it out before midday, otherwise the joke is on you!

While we keep an eye out in the office for any sign of trickery, we thought we’d gather together a few examples of sneaky species for which it is April Fool’s Day every day of the year!

Mucous mask

Did you know that parrotfish are the masters of mucous?! Before settling down for the night, species such as this daisy parrotfish may spend up to an hour making their own ‘mucous bubble’ in which to sleep. It may sound pretty gross to us, but this slimy sleeping bag is thought to serve a very important function, potentially disguising the scent of the sleeping fish and preventing it from being picked up by sharp-nosed nocturnal predators. What a great trick!

While reef fish are kept free of parasites during the day by hard-working cleaner fish, they receive no such protection at night, and studies have shown that the mucous mask may also act as a bubbly barrier against blood-sucking crustaceans known as gnathiid isopods.

Crying wolf

The tufted capuchin monkey, a subspecies of the black-capped capuchin, could certainly be referred to as a cheeky monkey, as it is known to fool and deceive all in the name of a quick snack! Within groups of these monkeys there is a strict social hierarchy, with the dominant individuals gaining better access to rich food sources. Lower ranked individuals have been observed to produce false alarm calls to trick the dominant monkeys into thinking they are in danger, causing them to scurry for cover, leaving the delicious food available for the lower-ranking individuals to get their hands on!

Cunning cuttlefish

Cuttlefish, such as this common cuttlefish, are related to octopuses and squid, and are rather crafty creatures! These intelligent invertebrates are able to change colour to match their surroundings, and the males are willing to employ some deceptive measures to make sure they get some quality time with the ladies. Male cuttlefish put on rather spectacular displays to attract females, flashing bands of colour along their bodies. To ensure their wooing attempts are not disturbed by potentially more dominant males, some male cuttlefish may ‘flash’ their bright colours only on the side nearest to the female, while maintaining female-looking colouration on the other side. Any potential rivals surveying the scene would then simply see two ‘female’ cuttlefish hanging out, and would not attempt to attack the sneaky male.

 

What are your favourite animal tricksters? Comment below to share with us!

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Content and Outreach Officer

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