“…and today we’re talking about another misnamed sea creature with a sneaky nature.”
The coral reefs of Australia are bright and colorful places of happiness for all kinds of fish and sea critters. But there’s always danger lurking around every corner. One surly cephalopod has a habit of hypnotizing its prey and tricking its rivals with fancy flashes. The cuttlefish is simultaneously a dangerous predator and a master con artist. But being one of the smartest invertebrates has its advantages and helps it survive here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.
- Cuttlefish look like short armed octopi with large mantles.
- Giant cuttlefish have flat fins that surround their mantle.
- Unlike an octopus, cuttlefish usually swim around horizontally with their arms out in front of them or behind them.
- They have relatively large eyes with long horizontal pupils.
Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words measure up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We do have a new measure up intro from Casy, who does music you can find on Spotify or Youtube under the name Casy Michelle. And guess what, I heard it and it’s good!
- 50 cm (20 in)
- How many patu digua spiders go into the length of the giant cuttlefish?
- Hint: The patu digua is thought to be smallest spider in the world. But there might be a smaller spider in Africa called Anapistula caecula. The female is slightly larger than patu, but the male has never been seen and male spiders are usually smaller than females.
- Answer: 1,333 spiders. Patu digua is 0.015 inches (0.3 mm)
- 10.5 kg (23 lb)
- How many square feet of microlattice, the world’s lightest metal material, go into the weight of a giant cuttlefish?
- Hint: Boeing invented microlattice to be strong and light. Microlattice is like a sponge of interconnected nickel that’s thinner than human hair.
- Answer. 4,099 square feet of microlattice. Microlattice is 2 g/ft3 (0.00561 lb/ft3)
Cuttlefish live for up to two years and their main goal is to survive and mate in the winter. Females are polyandrous, which means they will take multiple mates, which helps to maximize their chances of reproducing.
Females lay eggs on rocks which hatch after five months. After mating, cuttlefish die because their work here is done. For the most part, cuttlefish spawn in pairs or in small groups.
However, there’s a famous snorkeling spot in South Australia called Point Lowly where cuttlefish aggregate in spawning groups as large as ten.
We don’t know much about juveniles after they leave the spawning grounds and they haven’t posted any strategy guides for how they make it to adulthood.
Bottlenose dolphins like to eat giant cuttlefish but they don’t like eating ink or cuttlebones, which are hard internal shells.
The dolphins have figured out a way to drain ink from cuttlefish and tear out the cuttlebone before eating. Fur seals also eat cuttlefish.
Cuttlefish are colorblind but it’s thought that they may be able to see the linear polarization of light.
Major Fact: Sexual Deception
Many cephalopods are armed with special cells called chromatophores. We’ve talked about them before for the Humboldt squid and the mimic octopus.
These cells have all kinds of pigments in them and the animal can rapidly expand or contract certain cells to create whatever color it wants
Some animals use this ability to camouflage while others use it to communicate with other members of its species. The cuttlefish does both of those things and adds some extra spice on top.
They can change colors insanely fast. Even being able to create flashing strobe patterns going across their bodies.
The first way they use this is to catch prey. In some cases, they camouflage as staghorn coral by lifting up their arms and shifting into the same shade as the other coral in the area.
In other cases, however, it will put on a dazzling strobe light display that flashes from white to dark brown.
This actually hypnotizes many small fish and crustaceans (including the powerhouse mantis shrimp) and causes them to be motionless and mesmerized, a perfect target for the cuttlefish.
The second way they use their chromatophores is in mating situations. Females and males often use distinct patterns. Females have a mottled, patchy pattern while males tend to have a more striped pattern.
But not all cuttlefish are created equal. Some males are larger than others and use their size to bully smaller males out of being able to mate.
So what do the small males do? They cross dress!
A sneaky beta male will place himself between the female and the alpha. Then he’ll change the side that’s facing the female to match the striped male pattern while displaying an innocent blotchy female pattern to the alpha.
If the alpha glances over, he’ll likely just see to ladies hanging out. The sneaky male has just bought himself some time to convince the female to mate.
They only do this when one rival is present, though, since if they’re caught, they’ll fight, lose, and not be able to mate.
Ending: So turn on the lights, dazzle the one you love, and think creatively like the cuttlefish here in LDT.
And with our 130th episode, we close out the 13th season of the show. But fret not! We’ll be right back next week with yet another 10 awesome animals that you desperately need to know about. But first, we’d like to take a minute to thank some of the people that have helped make this little podcast what it is.
- First, I’d like to sincerely thank everyone who sent in a measure up intro. I know I give the segment a lot of grief (it gives me grief) but hearing the voice of someone who enjoys the show and seeing the effort they put in really means a lot to us.
- I’d also like to thank those who left a review for the show since our last season ended. We have two this season from HelloandNo and Jeremiah48:10, which is a pretty great powerful verse. If you left just some stars in a rating, thank you as well!
- I’d also like to thank Brian for his incredible ability to put together amazing artwork for the show week in and week out. He’s a creative force to be reckoned with and we always look forward to seeing what he’ll do with each week’s animal.
- I also want to thank Moxie from the Your Brain on Facts podcast for being a part of our “Facts with Friends” segment and allowing us to talk about Ken Allen the orangutan escape artist on her show! Check it out!
- We’d also like to thank Johanna for putting the new show logo together and offering some great ideas for marketing the show.
- And last, but certainly not least, I’d like to thank my wife Bibby for supporting us with this show through the years. She’s always helping me look for new angles to reach more people and also is a source of creative inspiration when I can’t think of any animal nicknames to save my life.
It means the world that we have the help and support of so many and that people actually take time out of their days to listen to us jabber on about animals. We know you have a limited amount of time in your day and we appreciate you spending it with us. So that’s all for season 13. We’ll see you next Tuesday for another round of interesting animal info here on Life, Death, and Taxonomy.