Common Cuttlefish (Sepia Officinalis)

Latin name: Sepia officinalis
Common name: Common Cuttlefish
In other languages: E: Choco, F: Seiche Commune, D: Sepia, Tintenfisch
Family: Sepiidae

Distribution: Mediterranean, Atlantic, North Sea, English Channel.

Habitat: This demersal species is found on sandy gravel grounds, between seaweed and in sea-grass meadows and also near the surface.

Life span: Females die after spawning, while males may live up to 2 years.

Reproduction: During breeding seasons they are mostly seen in pairs. The male follows the female, strokes her tentacles and fights off competition. Females deposit up to 4,000 grape-shaped eggs that hatch after 30-90 days. The 8mm hatchlings feed on caprelids during the first 3 months. Females born in spring, spawn in autumn; while females born in autumn spawn in spring of the following year.

Behaviour: Demersal species; Rests on sea-bed. When encountered by divers it goes into a defensive mode, holding up its two central tentacles as if poised to strike. If the diver approaches too close it sets up a wave action of colour change down the length of its body, towards the diver. Approach too close and it will disappear in a cloud of its own ink. We have seen this colour change used on prey items prior to a strike and it is our belief that this is done to momentarily distract the prey and thereby improve the success of the strike (observations from divers are most welcome).

Shape: Rounded shield over head, oral tentacles with suckers organised in four rows.

Size: Common: 15 - 25cm (body only), maximum: 40cm (body only).

Colour: Grey-brownish, but varying with background and mood; zebra like stripes of the male during breeding season.

Did you know? The internal shell (cuttlefish bone) is given to caged birds for its calcium. The cuttlefish's ink is known and was used as sepia in the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. It can change body colour and shape at will.

Medicine: In pharmacies one can obtain the ink of the cuttlefish on prescription. It is used against exhaustion, period pains and menopause pains but has severe side-effects.