I remember the first time I saw a cuttlefish, in a TV documentary. It was stunning, with changing colors to hypnotize prey that soon had me enchanted too. I couldn't believe I hadn't seen one before.
That's when I figured out that cuttlefish live in the waters off all continents except North and South America, and Antarctica. That explained it; they were nowhere nearby.
I also learned that they are not only stunning to look at, but also are very smart, with large brains like others in their cephalopod animal class that also includes octopuses and squid. Cuttlefish can learn and remember, say scientists.
I had to see one for myself. Until I have the luck of seeing one when I'm snorkeling or scuba diving in another country, I had to settle for a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to check out a species called common cuttlefish in person. It really was wonderful. They often adopt stripes on their bodies like the video I took below.
In fact, cuttlefish have the ability to change the color and texture of their bodies, to match their environment for camouflage, or for other tricks. It makes them look even more interesting, with a ruffle of a fin running all the way around their bodies.
They are more skilled at this than squid or octopuses, using pockets of pigment that are embedded in their skin.
They can even take on a different appearance on different sides of their bodies. A male can flirt with a female with a display of his stripes on her side while duping a larger male competitor by taking on a female appearance on the opposite side.
They also can squirt an ink cloud into the water to hide themselves when they need to make a getaway and can use body movements as a form of expression.
Unfortunately, just as squid and octopuses end up on restaurant menus, in countries where they live, cuttlefish also commonly show up on dinner plates, chopped up or used in sauces for their ink. Cuttlefish ink also is used in pigment and was the origin of sepia ink.
Attached to their heads, cuttlefish have eight arms, plus two larger tentacles that have strong suckers they use to catch food, from shrimp to fish and even crabs. They can break down shells with bird-like beaks hidden from view.
I have spent time learning to tell the difference between them and their cousins the squid. I like to scuba dive, and I want to be able to ID a cuttlefish in the sea, swimming free, when I see it. I also hope that us human animals can stop pulling them out of the oceans and their natural habitats for food.