IUCN threat status:

Data Deficient (DD)

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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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© Dana Campbell

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