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Flamboyant cuttlefish

Metasepia pfefferi

Description: These extraordinary and venomous cuttlefish are masters at changing their color. Their base color is dark brown with overlaying patterns of white and yellow. The arms are tipped purple-pink to red. However, they can quickly change their color showing a spectrum of color patches: maroon, black, blue and red. This color change is possible due to pigment cells (chromatophores) contained within their skin that can be manipulated. The mantle (the part behind the head) is oval, broad and flattened with flat-like papillae; the head is slightly narrower than the mantle. Surrounding the mouth are eight broad arms with suckers and two tentacles with flattened tips which are used to manipulate prey and catch prey respectively. One of the arms on males is modified into a hectocotylus arm- specialized to store and transfer spermatophores to the female during breeding. Research has recently discovered that their flesh contains a toxin (poisonous if is eaten), making the Flamboyant cuttlefish the only cuttlefish and one of only three known venomous species of cephalopods. Further research is being done to see if their bite and ink are poisonous.

Size: This small cuttlefish reaches lengths of 2.4- 3.1 inches (6-8 cm), excluding the tentacles.

Behavior: They are active during the day hunting for food. These slow swimmers cannot swim very long due to the smallness of their cuttlebone, so they “walk” across the sea floor using their arms. These cuttlefish are brave. When confronted by a predator they will display their array of colors as a warning that they are toxic.

Diet: The carnivorous Flamboyant cuttlefish feeds on small shrimp and other invertebrates that are caught on the specialized tentacles that shoot out.

Senses: Their senses of sight and smell are well- developed and they are also able to sense sound waves.

Communication: Flamboyant cuttlefish communicate through their ability to change colors in response to its environment, to lure in prey, avoid predators and warn predators they are toxic. To attract a female mate, the male puts on displays.

Reproduction: Mating of the Flamboyant cuttlefish occurs face-to-face. The male uses his hectocotylus arm to transfer a sperm packet into the female where internal fertilization of the eggs take place. The white round eggs, later becoming clear as they develop, are laid one at a time in crevices and cracks to protect them from predation. There is no parental care given once the eggs hatch. Newly hatched cuttlefish are capable of color camouflage. Soon after all the eggs hatch the female dies.

Habitat/range: Flamboyant cuttlefish inhabit sand and mud substrates in tropical waters as deep as 9-282 feet (3-86 m) from Indonesia, through Papua New Guinea to Australia.

Status: : Data Deficient on IUCN.