We often find the remains of the cuttlefish shell called the ‘cuttlebone’ washed upon our shores, rather than the animal itself. It is a casting of the dead animal, and is a white, hard brittle internal structure, which is filled with gas to help the cuttlefish remain buoyant. The cast cuttlebone is often given to pet birds and reptiles as a source of calcium.
Cuttlefish have very large eyes and mouths like beaks. The body is wide and flattened, and a fin runs from behind the body from the head. There are eight arms encircling the mouth with suckers, which helps the cuttlefish to manipulate its prey. It also has two other tentacles which help the creature to snare its prey. It has amazing abilities of camouflage, and can change its colour to blend in with any surrounding. It can grow up 45cm in length.
It feeds on small fish, crabs, molluscs, and other species of cuttlefish, even its own. When threatened the Common Cuttlefish releases an ink known as sepia to produce a protective cloud about itself to confuse predators. Cuttlefish are one of the most intelligent of all invertebrates, and belong with the same group of molluscs as the octopuses and squids. It can live between 1 to 2 years.
The cuttlebone is often found washed up on beaches, where as the creature itself lives in the shallows to depths of 200m. It is common and widespread.
Photographs of Common Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis), taken August 2012, Bournemouth, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.