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Common cuttlefish

Sepia officinalis

Photo: Common cuttlefish
Weights and measures
Length 30 cm
State of endangerment
Animal description
The Common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) is a fascinating and complex creature that inhabits the shallow waters of the Mediterranean Sea, North Sea, and along the coastlines of the eastern North Atlantic, extending from Scandinavia to South Africa. This species is known for its remarkable ability to camouflage and its unique physical characteristics, making it an intriguing subject of study in the marine world.

One of the most striking features of the Common cuttlefish is its appearance. It possesses a broad, flattened, oblong body that can reach up to 49 centimeters in length, although the average size is typically around 20 to 30 centimeters. The skin of the cuttlefish is a marvel of nature; it contains thousands of pigment cells called chromatophores, which allow the animal to change color and texture in an instant. This ability is not just for camouflage against predators and prey, but is also used for communication with other cuttlefish, displaying a variety of patterns and colors depending on the context and its intentions.

At the base of the cuttlefish's head are eight arms and two longer tentacles, which are used for feeding. The arms are equipped with suckers that help the cuttlefish to secure its prey, which includes fish, crabs, and other small mollusks. The two elongated tentacles are shot out with lightning speed to catch prey that is beyond the reach of its arms. Once captured, the prey is brought to the cuttlefish's beak-like jaws, which can easily break the shells of mollusks or the exoskeletons of crustaceans.

Another remarkable feature of the Common cuttlefish is its internal shell, known as the cuttlebone. The cuttlebone is composed of a unique, lightweight, porous material that helps the cuttlefish regulate its buoyancy. By altering the gas-to-liquid ratio within the chambers of the cuttlebone, the cuttlefish can float higher or sink lower in the water column, allowing it to effortlessly hover at any depth.

The eyes of the Common cuttlefish are also noteworthy. They are large, W-shaped, and highly developed, providing the cuttlefish with an excellent sense of vision. The unique shape of its pupils allows it to have a wide field of vision, and it is believed that cuttlefish can perceive polarization of light, which enhances their ability to detect contrast in their murky underwater environments.

Reproduction is another interesting aspect of the Common cuttlefish's life. During mating, the male cuttlefish displays an array of colors to attract a female and to ward off rivals. After mating, the female lays clusters of eggs, often attaching them to the underside of rocks or plants. The eggs are known as "sea grapes" due to their appearance. After hatching, the young cuttlefish are fully formed and are independent from birth, ready to start their life in the sea.

The Common cuttlefish plays a significant role in the marine ecosystem, both as a predator and as prey for larger marine animals, such as dolphins, sharks, and large fish. It is also of economic importance to humans, being caught for food in many parts of the world, particularly in the Mediterranean.

In summary, the Common cuttlefish is a remarkable marine creature, known for its intelligence, complex behaviors, and extraordinary ability to change color and shape. Its adaptability and skills as a hunter make it a fascinating subject for scientists and nature enthusiasts alike.
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