Pfeffer's flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi) is a small (6-8 cm long, excluding the tentacles) species of cuttlefish occurring in tropical Indo-Pacific waters off northern Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. These creatures live in shallow waters, on mud or sandy bottoms, and are remarkable in being the only cuttlefish known to “walk” along the sea floor rather than swim. When threatened, they boldly hold their ground rather than dart away as do other cuttlefish species. This strategy is thought possible because M. pfefferi has recently been discovered to have poisonous flesh (the only toxic cuttlefish), perhaps with toxicity similar to that of the deadly blue-ringed octopuses, genus Hapalochlaena. Its toxins, a very different class from those used by Hapalochlaena, are being investigated for potentially useful bioactive molecules (Fremlin 2011; Allen et al. 2013; Williams et al. 2011).
The common name of M. pfefferi describes well their dramatic color and pattern changing abilities, used for communication and camouflage. As soon as they hatch, the direct-developing juveniles, miniature versions of the adults, are able to color-change as adults do (Protect our coral sea 2009-14; Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation 2014; MarineBIo Conservation Society 2013).
Although not especially common, flamboyant cuttlefish have been cultured in captivity. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has bed many generations and makes them available to other institutions. They are also popular in the aquarium industry, though they live only about a year and are very difficult to breed. Their population status and the impact of potential threats such as harvesting and ocean acidification, is at this point unknown (Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation 2014; Barratt and Allcock 2012).
- Allen, J.J., G.R.R. Bell, A.M. Kuzirian and R.T. Hanlon, 2013. Cuttlefish skin papilla morphology suggests a muscular hydrostatic function for rapid changeability. Journal of Morphology 274(6): 645–656. DOI: 10.1002/jmor.20121.
- Barratt, I. and L. Allcock 2012. Metasepia pfefferi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/full/162681/0. Downloaded on 18 July 2014.
- Fremlin, L. 2011. Technology and Biodiscovery: Using Modern Technologies and Methods to Tackle the Challenges of Biodiscovery. PhD Thesis, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland.
- MarineBio Conservation Society, January 14 2013. Pfeffer's Flamboyant Cuttlefishes, Metasepia pfefferi ~ MarineBio.org. Retrieved July 17, 2014 from http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=557.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation, 2014. Flamboyant cuttlefish. Retrieved July 17, 2014 from http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/octopus-and-kin/flamboyant-cuttlefish.
- Protect our coral Sea 2009-2014. Creature Feature: Metasepia pfefferi. Retrieved July 17, 2014 from http://www.protectourcoralsea.org.au/media/transfer/doc/oc20100714_cuttlefish_creature_feature_on_template.pdf.
- Williams BL, Hanifin CT, Brodie JED, Caldwell RL. 2011. Ontogeny of tetrodotoxin levels in blue-ringed octopuses: Maternal investment and apparent independent production in offspring of Hapalochlaena lunulata. J Chem Ecol 37: 10–17.