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12 Types of Cuttlefish: Species, Facts and Photos

Move over octopuses and squids! This article spotlights one of the lesser-known cephalopods.  Let us learn about the distribution, characteristics, and adaptations of various types of cuttlefish. Read on to learn more.

General Information about Cuttlefish

Cuttlefish belong to the Cephalopoda class under the Mollusca phylum, comprising various marine mollusks. It belongs to the Sepiida order, comprising around 120 species of cuttlefish. 

Like other cephalopods, they can change their skin color and pattern in a split second, a form of communication and a defense mechanism against predators. They are also equipped with eight arms and two long tentacles.

Interestingly, cuttlefish blood is blue-green instead of red because of the hemocyanin in their blood. (It contains copper, whereas hemoglobin contains iron.)

They live worldwide, including in the Mediterranean, East Asia, Australia, and Africa. However, cuttlefish populations face overfishing, habitat destruction, and climate change. 

People also eat cuttlefish because it is softer than squid and octopus, as featured in popular dishes like cuttlefish and ink sauce.

Related Read: Cuttlefish Facts.

12 Types of Cuttlefish Species

1. Common Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis)

common cuttlefish
Photo by Diego Delso on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Common Cuttlefish, or the European Common Cuttlefish, lives in the Mediterranean, North, and Atlantic Oceans. 

It is one of the larger cuttlefish species, with a mantle that can grow up to 20 inches long and a maximum weight of 9 pounds. It has an oval, broad mantle and a large, rigid internal shell, known as a cuttlebone, used for buoyancy control.

One of the most notable characteristics of the Common Cuttlefish is its ability to change the color and pattern of its skin. A study has even observed how even more complex the coloration of a young cuttlefish is1.

Additionally, it uses various strategies to catch its prey, such as stunning it with a jet of water or approaching it stealthily. Its preferred prey are small fish and crustaceans, which it catches using its two long, predatory tentacles.

Moreover, they dye their eggs in cuttlefish ink, making them look like grapes, hence the name “sea grapes.”

2. Giant Cuttlefish (Sepia apama)

Giant Cuttlefish
Photo by Jacob Bridgeman on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Giant Cuttlefish, or the Australian Giant Cuttlefish, lives mainly on the southern coast of Australia. It swims in diverse marine environments as deep as 328 feet.

This creature has a total length of up to 39 inches and a weight of 23 pounds. It can change colors as a means of camouflage and communication. 

During the mating season, males display shifting colors and patterns to attract females. They usually prey on small fish and crustaceans and use their color-changing ability to stun their prey. Despite its size and predatory nature, this giant Australian cuttlefish is gentle towards humans.

3. Broadclub Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)

Broadclub Cuttlefish
Photo by Bernard DUPONT on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Broadclub Cuttlefish lives in the Indo-Pacific region. Like other cuttlefish, it can rapidly change its colors and patterns, which it uses to blend with its surroundings or mimic other marine creatures. After their hunt, they display dynamic, zebra-like patterns to attract a mate.

The Broadclub Cuttlefish feeds on small fish and crustaceans, using its club-shaped arms and long feeding tentacles to capture prey. 

4. Dwarf Cuttlefish (Sepia bandensis)

Dwarf Cuttlefish
Photo by Bill Abbott on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Dwarf Cuttlefish usually grows up to 3 inches and lives in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea waters. It can change its body color and pattern to match its surroundings, which protects them from predators and helps them ambush prey. 

This cuttlefish feeds on small crustaceans and fish and has a lifespan of about a year. It is most active at night, displaying its changing colors and patterns. Moreover, it is a predator that plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance of its ecosystem.

5. Elegant Cuttlefish (Sepia elegans)

Elegant Cuttlefish
Photo by Nanosanchez on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

The Elegant Cuttlefish is a marine species in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean, Black Sea, and Mediterranean Sea. It inhabits coastal areas and lagoons and has a modest size of about 6-10 inches. This species can change its color and skin texture and feed on small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. 

During late spring to early summer, the Elegant Cuttlefish mates, and males compete for females in a display of colors. 

As the female cuttlefish reach sexual maturity, they can lay about 100-300 eggs and attach them to hard surfaces, while the male cuttlefish protect the eggs until they hatch. 

6. Needle Cuttlefish (Sepia aculeata)

The Needle Cuttlefish inhabits the Western Pacific Ocean, ranging from Japan to Taiwan and the Philippines. These creatures prefer sandy and muddy sea floors 320 to 650 feet deep. 

Males have a mantle length of up to 6 inches, while females are slightly larger at 7 inches. 

Its mottled brown, white, and grey cloak helps it blend in with its surroundings and makes it a master of disguise. Moreover, the Needle Cuttlefish is notable for its sharp, needle-like posterior dorsal mantle, which gives it its name. 

Additionally, the Needle Cuttlefish possesses specialized skin cells called chromatophores, allowing it to change its color and patterns instantly. 

7. Pharaoh Cuttlefish (Sepia pharaonis)

Pharaoh Cuttlefish
Photo by Schristia on Flickr licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Pharaoh Cuttlefish is a species found in the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The species can grow to a mantle length of 20 inches.

Interestingly, its skin displays patterns similar to hieroglyphics, which can change color for communication and camouflage. 

Despite its captivating exterior, the Pharaoh Cuttlefish is a territorial ambush predator that preys on small fish and crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs. Its diet supports its rapid growth, and it can reach maturity within a year. 

8. Two-tone Cuttlefish (Sepia bimaculata)

The Two-Tone Cuttlefish is a small creature in the Indo-Pacific region's tropical waters. Its body usually features a mix of brown and white, which helps it blend in with its surroundings and avoid predators. 

It thrives in shallow waters among seagrass beds, coral reefs, and sandy bottoms, feeding on small crustaceans and fish. This cuttlefish uses its tentacles to catch prey, and it immobilizes them with a potent bite.

Apart from its appearance, the Two-Tone Cuttlefish can also change its skin's texture and hue, responding to its environment or emotions. 

9. Slender Cuttlefish (Sepia elongata)

Slender Cuttlefish
Photo by Anne-Sophie Darmaillacq on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Slender Cuttlefish is a small marine creature in South Africa, Mozambique, and Madagascar. It measures 4 to 6 inches long and can rapidly change color and pattern, both a defense mechanism and a communication tool. 

Moreover, it prefers seagrass beds and coral reefs, where it hunts small crustaceans and fish with its two long tentacles.

During the breeding season, males and females gather together, the only time they deviate from their solitary lifestyle. 

They use their color-changing abilities to communicate with each other during courtship and competition.

10. Flamboyant Cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi)

Flamboyant Cuttlefish
Photo by Silke Baron on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Flamboyant Cuttlefish lives in the tropical Indo-Pacific region, from Japan’s southernmost limits to northern Australia. It strolls along the seafloor using its lower arms and a pair of fins. 

Moreover, its skin exhibits deep browns, bright yellows, soft pinks, and stark whites, often shifting in hypnotic patterns. This tiny creature seldom grows more than 7 inches long.

The Flamboyant Cuttlefish's vivid colors warn potential predators to stay away; it is one of the few poisonous cuttlefish species. Its dynamic coloration lures small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks before capturing them with its two elongated tentacles.

11. Striped Pajama Squid (Sepioloidea lineolata)

Striped Pajama Squid
Photo by Scubagirl85 on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Striped Pajama Squid or Striped Dumpling Squid is a marine creature found mostly in the Indo-Pacific waters around Australia. Despite it being under the Sepiida order, it lacks a cuttlebone unlike other cuttlefish. Phylogenomic studies propose that bottletail and bobtail squids may constitute a new2, distinct Sepiolida order.

It has black and white stripes on its body, which are believed to be a warning coloration for predators. During the day, it stays buried in the sand, but it emerges at night to hunt small crustaceans and fish using its two tentacles and eight arms. 

Its venomous bite is lethal despite its small size, only measuring 3 inches long. However, it poses no harm to humans. 

12. Bottletail Cuttlefish (Sepiadarium kochi)

Bottletail Cuttlefish
Photo by Rickard Zerpe on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Bottletail Cuttlefish comes alive at night in the shallows of the Indo-Western Pacific. It grows up to 1.2 inches long and hides in the sand during the day, protecting itself from predators.

By night, it hunts small crustaceans and fish in the calm waters off the coasts of Japan, the Philippines, and Australia. It catches prey off guard, attacking from its concealed position in the sand.

1

Hanlon, R. T., & Messenger, J. B. (1988). Adaptive coloration in young cuttlefish ( Sepia officinalis L.): the morphology and development of body patterns and their relation to behaviour. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 320(1200), 437–487.

2

Sánchez, G., Fernández-Álvarez, F. Á., Taite, M., Sugimoto, C., Jolly, J., Simakov, O., Marlétaz, F., Allcock, A. L., & Rokhsar, D. S. (2021). Phylogenomics illuminates the evolution of bobtail and bottletail squid (order Sepiolida). Communications Biology, 4(1).

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by Konyali43 on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).
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