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Metasepia pfefferi (Family Sepiidae)

Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Pfeffer's Flamboyant Cuttlefish



Shallow waters of Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia (WA, NT, QLD).


A small squat cuttlefish with a body reaching around 8 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. This cuttlefish is capable of dramatic colour patterns ranging from excellent camouflage to colourful displays of red, yellow, white and dark brown. It is often encountered walking along the sea floor rather than swimming. The cuttlebone is diamond shaped, thick and lacks a spine. This genus of cuttlefish differs from other cuttlefish species in that it has a cuttlebone that is significantly shorter than the body, around two thirds of its length. Large flaps of skin are raised from the upper surface of the body in some colour patterns.

Ecology/Way of Life:

Flambuoyant cuttlefish tend to occur on sand and mud substrates in coastal waters where they hunt primarily during the day for fish and shrimp.

These small cuttlefishes differ from the more familiar cuttlefishes in several ways. Firstly, they tend to walk along the sea floor rather than swim. Secondly, they tend to use camouflage only when stalking prey. If disturbed by potential predators, they put on very dramatic displays of bright colours and make themselves as obvious as possible. Rather than fleeing or seeking cover, they amble along the sea floor waving their colourful arms and pulsing waves of colour along their body. It is possible that this dramatic behaviour is warning predators of a poisonous nature.

Courting behaviour consists of males parading after females, putting on fast colour changes. Mating occurs face-to-face with the male placing sperm packages in a special pouch below the female's mouth. She uses this stored sperm to fertilise her eggs, passing one at a time over the sperm mass before gluing them individually in crevices in coral, shells or rock. The eggs are white and round. In the late stages of development the colourful young are visible through the walls of the egg.

Preferred Image

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

There is no known fisheries harvest for this small cuttlefish. Its dramatic colour patterns make it popular with some aquarists.

Further Reading:

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 David Paul.

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Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 140518 bytes Flambuoyant Cuttlefish walking along substrate
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 153965 bytes Diamond shaped cuttlebone of Flambuoyant cuttlefish
Distribution Map  
image/jpeg 38959 bytes Distribution of Flambuoyant cuttlefish
video/x-msvideo 1178070 bytes Video of Flambuoyant cuttlefish

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