Overview

Brief Summary

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).

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Distribution

Range Description

The geographic distribution of this species includes northern Australia from Mandurah, western Australia, to Moreton Bay, southern Queensland and the southern coast of New Guinea (Reid et al. 2005).
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Geographic Range

Pfeffer's flamboyant cuttlefish, Metasepia pfefferi, is found in Tropical Indo-Pacific oceans, especially along the coast of northern Australia, western Australia, and across to the southern edge of New Guinea.

Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native ); australian (Native ); pacific ocean (Native )

  • Reid, A. 2005. Family Sepiidae. In P. Jereb & C.F.E. Roper, eds., Cephalopods of the World. FAO Species Catalogue for Fishery Purposes, 1(4): 57-152. Accessed December 20, 2010 at http://marinebio.org/cephs/FAO/A0150e00.pdf.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Metasepia pfefferi is a small cephalopod with a dark brown base color. This cuttlefish has overlaying patterns of white and yellow and its arms are purple-pink. The skin contains many chromatophores, which are pigment cells that can be manipulated to change colors. Females and males have similar colors except when spawning.

Metasepia pfefferi has a very broad, oval mantle that is flattened dorsoventrally. The dorsal mantle has three pairs of large, flat, flap-like papillae, which cover its eyes. The dorsal anterior edge of the mantle lacks the tongue-like projection that is common among all other species of cuttlefish. The head is slightly narrower than the mantle. The mouth is surrounded by ten appendages. Two of the appendages are tentacles and eight of them are arms. The arms are broad and blade-like. On males, one of the arms is modified into a hectocotylus for holding and transferring spermatophores. The cuttlebone, the defining feature of a cuttlefish, is approximately two thirds to three quarters the length of the mantle. Metasepia pfefferi is also venomous.

Range length: 60 (high) mm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; venomous

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species is a demersal neritic species found on sand and muddy habitats in shallow waters (Reid et al. 2005). It is typically well camouflaged but when disturbed changes to bright, warning colouration (Reid et al. 2005). It is active by day preying on fish and crustaceans (Reid et al. 2005). The female spawns large white eggs into crevices or under ledges in coral, rock, wood or coconut shells (Norman 2003). This species has direct developing young (Norman 2003).

Systems
  • Marine
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Metasepia pfefferi is typically a bottom-dweller living from depths of 3 to 86 m. It prefers living among sandy and muddy substrates in tropical waters.

Range depth: 3 to 86 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: benthic ; reef ; coastal

Other Habitat Features: intertidal or littoral

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Depth range based on 74 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 30 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 10.5 - 94.6786
  Temperature range (°C): 23.578 - 26.692
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.129 - 1.886
  Salinity (PPS): 34.394 - 35.474
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.190 - 4.703
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.089 - 0.284
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.380 - 2.731

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 10.5 - 94.6786

Temperature range (°C): 23.578 - 26.692

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.129 - 1.886

Salinity (PPS): 34.394 - 35.474

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.190 - 4.703

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.089 - 0.284

Silicate (umol/l): 0.380 - 2.731
 
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Cuttlefish are carnivorous animals. They feed primarily on crustaceans and bony fish. The beak is used to capture prey.

Animal Foods: fish; aquatic crustaceans

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Eats non-insect arthropods)

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Metasepia pfefferi is a predatory animal. It helps to keep fish and crustacean population sizes in check.

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Predation

In general, cuttlefish are preyed upon by seals, dolphins and fish. When Metasepia pfefferi is threatened, it quickly change its colors through the manipulation of its chromatophores. It creates black, white and yellow patches on its dark brown skin and turns the tips of its arms bright red. These bright colors are used to warn other creatures of its venomous nature. It will keep this color pattern while waving its protective arm membranes, until it no longer feels threatened. Cuttlefish in general will secrete ink to disorient a predator and escape.

Anti-predator Adaptations: aposematic ; cryptic

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Cuttlefish in general have a well-developed brain that can see, smell, and sense sound waves. The cuttlefish will change colors in response to its environment, either to lure in prey or avoid predators. Males may put on displays to attract a female. Some cuttlefish are able to go through mazes through use of visual cues.

Cuttlefish also have a well developed eye which can detect polarized light, but it is likely color-blind. Reshaping the eye allows it to focus on specific objects.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; polarized light ; tactile ; acoustic ; vibrations ; chemical

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Life Cycle

Development

The eggs initially are round and white, and become clear as the egg develops. Development timing depends on water temperature.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan of Metasepia pfefferi is estimated to be between 18 and 24 months based on knowledge of other species in the same family. However, many females do not survive post-spawning. Metasepia pfefferi is rarely held in captivity, and therefore, its lifespan in captivity has not been described.

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Reproduction

The females generally mate with more than one male. Sometimes male cuttlefish may spray water into the female's buccal area to clear out spermatophores from previous mates.

Mating System: polyandrous

Males will put on colorful displays to attract females. Some males may change color to look like a female to avoid a more aggressive male, but gain access to a female.

Sexes are separate. Metasepia pfefferi reproduces by internal fertilization. Males have a specialized, hectocotyl arm that is used for holding and transferring spermatophores (packets of sperm) into the females buccal areas during mating. The female grabs the spermatophores with her arms and wipes them onto her eggs. After fertilization, the female lays her eggs one by one in hard to reach cracks and crevices to hide and provide protection against predators.

Breeding interval: Cuttlefish breed six to eight weeks in the spring.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

The females lay eggs in places that hide them from predators, but there is no parental care post-hatching as cuttlefish die after spawning.

Parental Investment: pre-fertilization (Provisioning); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
DD
Data Deficient

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
Barratt, I. & Allcock, L.

Reviewer/s
Reid, A., Rogers, Alex & Bohm, M.

Contributor/s
Herdson, R. & Duncan, C.

Justification
Metasepia pfefferi has been assessed as Data Deficient since there are no data available on the impact of harvesting for the aquarium trade. Other potential future threats include ocean acidification caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
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There has been little or no research into the status of Metasepia pfefferi in the wild.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Population

Population
The population size of this species is unknown.

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
Ocean acidification caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is potentially a threat to all cuttlefish. Studies have shown that under high pCO2 concentrations, cuttlefishes actually lay down a denser cuttlebone which is likely to negatively affect buoyancy regulation (Gutowska et al. 2010). This species is characterised by bright colours and patterns and interesting behaviours that may make it a popular in the aquarium trade (Reid et al. 2005).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Research is required on the trends in population size, and whether harvesting is having an impact on the population size of this species.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Metasepia pfefferi is one of only three known venomous species of cephalopods. The venom that M. pfefferi contains is shown to have similar lethal effects as that of the blue-ringed octopus, Hapolochlaena maculosa. The venom is very toxic and it may possibly be able to quickly kill an adult human.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings, venomous )

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Currently, there are no known positive effects of Metasepia pfefferi on humans. However, it has recently been discovered that the venom it possesses is of a new class that may possibly have uses in medicine.

Positive Impacts: source of medicine or drug

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Wikipedia

Metasepia pfefferi

Metasepia pfefferi, also known as Pfeffer's flamboyant cuttlefish, is a species of cuttlefish occurring in tropical Indo-Pacific waters off northern Australia, southern New Guinea, as well as numerous islands of the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. Mark Norman of Museum Victoria in Victoria, Australia, discovered that this unique species of cuttlefish is poisonous.[1]

Distribution[edit]

The natural range of M. pfefferi extends from Mandurah in Western Australia (32°33′S 115°04′E / 32.550°S 115.067°E / -32.550; 115.067), northeastward to Moreton Bay in southern Queensland (27°25′S 153°15′E / 27.417°S 153.250°E / -27.417; 153.250),[citation needed] and across the Arafura Sea to the southern coast of New Guinea.[2] This species has also been recorded from Sulawesi and the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, and even as far west as the Malaysian islands of Mabul and Sipadan.[3] They are also common in the Philippines and are frequently sighted in the Visayas.[citation needed]

The type specimen, a female, was collected off Challenger Station 188 in the Arafura Sea (09°59′S 139°42′E / 9.983°S 139.700°E / -9.983; 139.700) at a depth of 51 m on October 9, 1874, as part of the Challenger expedition.[2][4] It is deposited at The Natural History Museum in London.[5]

Description[edit]

Individual from Bitung, North Sulawesi

M. pfefferi is a robust-looking species, having a very broad, oval mantle. Arms are broad and blade-like, with arm pair I being shorter than the rest. The protective membranes are narrow in both sexes. Arm suckers are arranged in four rows. The modified arm used by males for fertilisation, called the hectocotylus, is borne on the left ventral arm. The oral surface of the modified region of the hectocotylus is wide, swollen, and fleshy. It bears transversely grooved ridges and a deep furrow running along the middle. The sucker-bearing surface of the tentacular clubs is flattened, with 5 or 6 suckers arranged in transverse rows. These suckers differ greatly in size, with the largest located near the centre of the club. Three to four median suckers are especially large, occupying most of middle portion of the club. The swimming keel of the club extends considerably near to the carpus. The dorsal and ventral protective membranes are not joined at the base of the club, but fused to the tentacular stalk. Dorsal and ventral membranes differ in length and extend near to the carpus along the stalk. The dorsal membrane forms a shallow cleft at the junction with the stalk.[2] This particular species of cuttlefish is the only one known to walk upon the sea floor. Due to the small size of its cuttlebone, it can float only for a short time.

Most sources agree that M. pfefferi grows to 8 cm (3.1 in) in mantle length,[3][6] although others give a maximum mantle length of 6 cm (2.4 in).[2] The dorsal surface of the mantle bears three pairs of large, flat, flap-like papillae. Papillae are also present over the eyes.[2]

The cuttlebone of this species is small, two-thirds to three-quarters the length of the mantle, and positioned in its anterior. Characteristic of the genus Metasepia, the cuttlebone is rhomboidal in outline. Both the anterior and posterior of the cuttlebone taper gradually to an acute point. The dorsal surface of the cuttlebone is yellowish and evenly convex. The texture throughout is smooth, lacking bumps or pustules. The dorsal median rib is absent. A thin film of chitin covers the entire dorsal surface. The cuttlebone lacks a pronounced spine; if present, it is small and chitinous. The striated zone of the cuttlebone is concave, with the last loculus being strongly convex and thick in the front third. The sulcus is deep and wide and extends along the striated zone only. Striae (furrows) on the anterior surface form an inverted V-shape. The limbs of the inner cone are very short, narrow, and uniform in width, with the U-shape thickened slightly towards the back. The cuttlebone of M. pfefferi does not possess an outer cone, unlike that of most other cuttlefish species.[2]

Habitat and biology[edit]

M. pfefferi in lateral view, displaying a threatening pattern of bright colours.

M. pfefferi has been recorded from sand and mud substrate in shallow waters at depths of 3 to 86 m. The species is active during the day and has been observed hunting fish and crustaceans. It employs complex and varied camouflage to stalk its prey. The normal base color of this species is dark brown. Individuals that are disturbed or attacked quickly change colour to a pattern of black, dark brown, white, with yellow patches around the mantle, arms, and eyes. The arm tips often display bright red coloration to ward off would-be predators. Animals displaying this colour pattern have been observed using their lower arms to walk or "amble" along the sea floor while rhythmically waving the wide protective membranes on their arms.[2] This behavior advertises a poisonous nature, the flesh of this cuttlefish contains a unique toxin.[3][1]

Reproduction[edit]

Copulation occurs face-to-face, with the male inserting a packet of sperm into a pouch on the underside of the female's mantle. The female then fertilises her eggs with the sperm. The eggs are laid singly and placed by the female in crevices or ledges in coral, rock, or wood. In one instance, around a dozen eggs were found under an overturned coconut half. They had been placed there by a female which had inserted them through the central hole of the husk. As such, the eggs were protected from predatory fish.[2][3]

Freshly laid eggs are white, but slowly turn translucent with time, making the developing cuttlefish clearly visible. From birth, juvenile M. pfefferi are capable of the same camouflage patterns as adults.[2][3]

Commercial value[edit]

A toxicology report has found and confirmed that the muscle tissue of flamboyant cuttlefish is highly toxic, making it only the third cephalopod found to be toxic. Research by Mark Norman with the Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, has shown the toxin to be as lethal as that of fellow cephalopod the blue-ringed octopus.[1]

M. pfefferi represents no interest to fisheries as food for the above reason. If its supply were steady, the spectacular colour and textural displays of this species would make it an excellent candidate for private aquariums.[2] The species is sometimes seen in public aquariums where it has been bred, such as the Long Island Aquarium, Steinhart Aquarium and Monterey Bay Aquarium.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c NOVA, 2007. Cuttlefish: Kings of Camouflage. [television program] NOVA, PBS, April 3, 2007. (Transcript)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Reid, A., P. Jereb, & C.F.E. Roper 2005. Family Sepiidae. In: P. Jereb & C.F.E. Roper, eds. Cephalopods of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of species known to date. Volume 1. Chambered nautiluses and sepioids (Nautilidae, Sepiidae, Sepiolidae, Sepiadariidae, Idiosepiidae and Spirulidae). FAO Species Catalogue for Fishery Purposes. No. 4, Vol. 1. Rome, FAO. pp. 57–152.
  3. ^ a b c d e Norman, M.D. 2000. Cephalopods: A World Guide. ConchBooks.
  4. ^ Latitude and Longitude Data for Metasepia pfefferi
  5. ^ Current Classification of Recent Cephalopoda
  6. ^ Okutani, T. 1995. Cuttlefish and squids of the world in color. Publication for the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the National Cooperative Association of Squid Processors.
  7. ^ Monterey Bay Aquarium: Flamboyant cuttlefish. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
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