Cuttlefish are extraordinary animals and, despite their name, are not fish but molluscs; related to octopuses and squid, and more distantly to snails. Sometimes called the chameleons of the sea, cuttlefish are masters of camouflage. The skin of cuttlefish possesses up to 200 pigment cells per square millimetre, allowing them to change colour and pattern almost instantly. Cuttlefish can also use muscles in their skin to change its texture. In this way they can blend in perfectly with their surroundings mimicking a sandy seabed, rocks or even floating vegetation.
What makes cuttlefish even more remarkable is that they also appear to wear their emotions on their skin. Waves of colour and changing patterns flicker across their skin and they use these mesmerizing colour changes to communicate with one another. Scientists studying common cuttlefish have named at least thirteen distinct body patterns including ‘flamboyant’ and 'passing cloud'. When displaying for a mate, male cuttlefish will warn other males to stay away by emblazoning their skin with ‘intense zebra’.
Cuttlefish have three separate hearts, two pump blood to their gills and one pumps the oxygenated blood around the rest of the body. The blood itself is blue-green in colour because it uses a protein called haemocyanin, which contains copper, to carry the oxygen. Mammals’ red blood uses haemoglobin, which contains iron, to do the same thing.
The common cuttlefish, found off the Lincolnshire coast, is just one of over 40,000 species of animals and plants living in the UK’s seas. The Wildlife Trusts have a vision of Living Seas, in which wildlife thrives from the depths of the ocean to the coastal shallows. To find out more, visit our Living Seas webpages.
Things to do:
Make your own cuttlefish puppets
Download the instructions to make your own cuttlefish.
This Sunday, Discover the Wonders of the Wash – free activities throughout the day at the Visitor Centre and on the beach at Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve, Skegness. From 11am - 5pm.
You can enjoy marine arts and crafts and make your own marine animals to take home; create a sand sculpture; take part in scavenger hunts, go sea dipping and see real marine animals up close, and much more.