Photo copyright Tim Nicholson.
Taken off Agincourt Reef, Australia.
The cuttlefish is a fascinating creature. This intelligent mollusc has almost incredible powers of mimicry. It can control the colour, patterning and texture of its skin to perfectly match its surroundings. And not just from aboveL the camouflage works from whichever angle it is observed. From birth, cuttlefish can display at least 13 type of body pattern, made up from over 30 different components.
In addition to avoiding predators, pattern control is also used in courtship by male cuttlefish. This impresses females and warns off competitors. After mating the male will often defend the female while she lays clumps of eggs. These hatch in two to three months to reveal minature cuttlefish. Females only breed once and die soon after laying.
With its flattened body skirted each side with fins, the cuttlefish moves with a pretty rippling motion. Like the closely related octopus, it can also escape by powerful jet propulsion whilst simultaneously ejecting a cloud of black ink to distract its foe. This ink is called sepia and was once used by artists.
The cuttlefish's mouth is surrounded by eight arms. It also has two long extendable tentacles and is thus classified as a decapod (10 feet). Carnivorous, cuttlefish catch fast-moving prey like crustaceans and fish with their long tentacles. They are found all over the world.
The Underwater Photographer: Digital and Traditional Techniques, by by Martin Edge, Paperback, 536 pages (2009)