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Sepia papuensis (Family Sepiidae)

Papuan Cuttlefish


Tropical Western Pacific from the Philippines to across northern Australia (WA, NT, QLD, NSW).


A small cuttlefish with a cuttlebone up to 11 cm long. The fin extends along the full 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 cuttlebone is of moderate width with a strong spine. This species is excellent at camouflage and can match many different backgrounds. It often displays a pair of dark spots at the rear of the body. It can raise two large flaps of skin and many smaller spikes over the upper body surfaces.

Ecology/Way of Life:

This small cuttlefish typically occurs around sand, mud and seagrass/seaweed habitats from shallow waters to at least 170 metres deep. It appears to be mainly active at night, feeding on fish and crustaceans. It is often associated with the sea floor where it rests on the tips of the two lower arms. This cuttlefish is excellent at camouflage amongst seaweed, complete with spikes and wavy arms. Smaller individuals have been observed moving slowly amongst beds of the calcified green seaweed Halimeda. This weed consists of strings of large green disks. The cuttlefish impersonates this seaweed by raising pairs of wide arms above and below the head to take on the disk shapes.

Little is known of breeding activity and reproduction in this species. As for other cuttlefishes, mating would occur face-to-face and the male would place sperm in a pouch below the female's mouth. Eggs are not known.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

This species is frequently taken as bycatch in prawn and mixed species trawl fisheries in the Gulf of Carpentaria. It is likely to be taken as trawl bycatch throughout its range.

Further Reading:

Roper, C.F.E. and F.G. Hochberg. 1988. Behaviour and systematics of cephalopods from Lizard Island, Australia based on colour and body patterns. Malacologia, 29(1): 153-193.

Norman, M.D. and A. Reid. 2000. A guide to the squid, cuttlefishes and octopuses of Australasia. Gould League/CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne. 96 pp.

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


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

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