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Sepia latimanus (Family Sepiidae)

Broadclub Cuttlefish

Distribution:

Tropical Indo-Pacific, from Andaman Sea to Japan, Fiji and across northern Australia (WA, NT, QLD).

Features:

A large muscular cuttlefish with a cuttlebone up to 50 cm long. The fins extend along the length of the body. There are eight arms and two retractable feeding tentacles. The arms and clubs at the tips of the feeding tentacles have numerous suckers, each armed with a horny, toothed rim. The common name comes from the wide club of suckers on the tips of the two feeding tentacles. This species is excellent at camouflage and can match many different backgrounds. Most common colour pattern is small white and black spots scattered over the upper body and arms. There is often a wide pale band across the mid body edged by dark narrow lines. Courting males are recognised by the numerous black and white zebra stripes around the edge of the fins and along the arm tips. The cuttlebone has a spine.

Ecology/Way of Life:

This cuttlefish typically occurs around coral reefs in shallow coastal waters to depths of around 30 metres. They are active day and night feeding on fish and crustaceans. They have a unique feeding method that consists of displaying fast-moving regular dark bands over the head and down the arms as the cuttlefish takes aim at its prey. From the prey's point of view, the bands look like regular shrinking circles. This display may have an almost hypnotic effect, confusing the prey long enough for the cuttlefish to shoot out its two long feeding tentacles and catch its meal. Buoyancy is maintained by the gas-filled cuttlebone.

Excellent camouflage allows this animal to be exposed during the day. Smaller individuals will often move about disguised as a floating leaf, complete with veins and spots. This form of mimicry includes drifting in the current like a bobbing leaf.

Breeding activity appears to occur throughout most of the year and is concentrated around coral heads that provide the shelter for the developing eggs. Males establish territories at the best coral heads and females visit to lay eggs. Males will display to females and if she accepts they mate face-to-face and the male places sperm in a pouch below the female's mouth. She pushes soft round white eggs deep into spaces amongst the coral fingers. The eggs then harden, making them difficult to reach and extract. Some coralfishes with long snouts extract the eggs before they harden and eat their contents.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

This species is taken in local fisheries throughout its range. It is caught with jigs, handlines, set nets and spears as well as being taken as bycatch in trawls. It is popular for human consumption.

Further Reading:

Norman, M.D. 2000. Cephalopods: A world guide. ConchBooks, Hackenheim, Germany.

Acknowledgments:

Text & map by Mark Norman; phtographs by Mark Norman and David Paul.

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