What do you think of them?
Cuttlefish are among one of the most unusual marine life in Tenerife. Luckily we see them at most of our dives sites.
It’s always interesting to watch them change colour and pattern so rapidly depending on their mood and to become camouflaged to match the environment. I have not yet witnessed them when they feel threatened, but they are known to release ink to try and confuse their predator.
Squid & Octopus Family
They belong to the same family as Squid and Octopus. In turn they are among the most intelligent invertebrates, with one of the largest brain-to-body size ratios. Cuttlefish have a unique internal shell, known as the cuttlebone. It is filled with gas and used to assist with their buoyancy control. Today cuttlebones are commonly used as calcium-rich dietary supplements for caged birds, chinchillas, hermit crabs, reptiles and snails. Cuttlefish eat small molluscs, crabs, shrimp, fish, worms and sometimes other cuttlefish, using their camouflage as a hunting tactic.
Cuttlefish swim at the bottom, where shrimps and crabs are found. They shoot out a jet of water to uncover any prey which may be buried in the sand. If the prey tries to escape, the cuttlefish will use two long feeding tentacles to grab it. On the end of each tentacle there is a pad covered with suckers used to pull the prey toward its beak, where it is paralysed by venom and then eaten.
Cuttlefish are also known to rapidly change their colours to achieve an effect of hypnosis to stun their prey before catching. Their predators include dolphins, sharks, large fish, seals, seabirds and other cuttlefish. The average life expectancy of a cuttlefish is around one to two years.
Male cuttlefish challenge one another for dominance, which is essential during mating season. During this challenge, no direct contact is usually made. The animals threaten each other until one of them backs down and swims away. Eventually, the larger male cuttlefish mate with the females by grabbing them with their tentacles. Both animals are face-to-face, and the male uses a specialised tentacle to insert sperm sacs into an opening near the female’s mouth. The male then guards the female until she lays the eggs a few hours later.
The most successful methods to acquire a mate is camouflage. Smaller cuttlefish will use their camouflage abilities to disguise themselves as a female cuttlefish. They do this by changing their body colour and concealing their extra arms (males have four pairs while females only have three). They even pretend to be holding an egg sack. Disguised males are able to swim past the larger guard male and mate with the female… very clever animals!
if you want to learn more about the Marine life in Tenerife check out the Underwater Naturalist Specialty course where we cover a lot more details on marine family groups.