Chameleons of the Sea
With two hearts more than humans’ and one of the largest brain-to-body ratio of any invertebrate, cuttlefish, or, by their scientific name, Sepiidae, are very fascinating creatures. They are often confused for squid, because of their similar camouflage abilities and body structure, but cuttlefish are actually an intriguing species of their own. Cuttlefish are known for their strange appearance and ability to change both color and texture. Even with all the knowledge we have, scientists still have many questions about these amazing animals remain unanswered.
Probably, the cuttlefish’s most interesting trait is their ability to change color. They do this using pigmented cells called “chromatophores,” along with reflective cells underneath, which can change color in order to evade predators and stay safe. They can have up to two hundred of these pigment cells per square millimeter! This incredible amount of color-changing-cells allows the cuttlefish to have extremely detailed and intriguing colors and patterns. No animal can change color with as much diversity or speed as the cuttlefish. They contain a lot of protein, so many other creatures prey on them. They have no defense aside from camouflage, so their mastery of this skill is necessary.
Cuttlefish are not exactly social creatures, much like dolphins or whales, but they will still often interact with one another quite a lot. According to Jean Boal in an interview for NOVA, “They have all kinds of cool social behaviors that octopuses just don’t have.” For example, male cuttlefish use many impressive color patterns to compete for dominance with other males. Male cuttlefish also have the ability to appear as either male or female on each half of their body. This is a helpful adaptation because it allows the male cuttlefish to not appear threatening to the other males, to not create any unwanted conflict, but to still attract females during the mating season. This would be like being able to dress up like your crush’s best friend to not intimidate their boyfriend or girlfriend.
Cuttlefish may seem strange, but they have many features that set them apart from other creatures. Though they may seem unimportant to us, they are amazingly well adapted and can teach us a lot about the ocean and the animals in it.