Adorable Baby Cuttlefish at the Aquarium
10/25/2011 3:11:19 PM
The Tennessee Aquarium recently had some baby cuttlefish hatch. These adorable little cephalopods have all of the traits of adult cuttles.
Above image: A baby cuttlefish is tiny enough to fit inside a quarter teaspoon. Photo by Bill Hughes / Tennessee Aquarium
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Chattanooga, Tenn. (October 25, 2011) – Pharaoh cuttlefish float like ghosts in the dimly-lit depths within the Boneless Beauties gallery at the Tennessee Aquarium. With eight arms and two long tentacles, these creatures conjure up images of the Kraken, the legendary sea monster. However, these animals are rather timid. “Cuttlefish are cephalopods related to squid and octopus,” said Carol Haley, the Aquarium’s assistant curator of fishes. “Like octopi, cuttlefish have chromatophores, special cells they use to change the color of their skin. They do this for camouflage, to express mood and to attract a mate.”
Color changes related to courtship can sometimes be seen at the Aquarium. In fact, for the past few weeks aquarists have been monitoring an egg mass which was laid by a cuttlefish pair that was born and reared at the Aquarium. Shortly after the eggs were removed from the exhibit and placed into a holding tank, tiny cuttlefish began hatching. “The first day about 42 hatchlings appeared,” said Haley. “Another 40 or so appeared the following day.”
The hatchlings, which Haley calls cuttlets, are tiny replicas of their parents. Each individual is small enough to fit inside a quarter teaspoon. Once they emerge from the egg sac, they begin hunting. “They have a pretty big appetite and are ready to use their tentacles to snare the live mysid shrimp we feed them,” said Haley.
These babies are too small to be placed on exhibit like their parents. Right now they use their chromatophores to look like tiny pebbles in the bottom of the holding tank they’ll call home for the next few months. They also use another trick to avoid being a tiny treat for a predator. “Even at their small size they can produce ink,” said Haley. “They will ink more as feisty teenagers, usually when they reach about six months of age.”
When they are six to seven months old, they’ll be large enough to go on exhibit. Until then, Aquarium guests can see these miniature cuttlefish in the Quarantine Room during the 1:30 p.m. Backstage Pass Tour. “Cuttlefish babies are super cute as babies and people are still fascinated by them when they reach adulthood,” said Haley. “They might be the most adorable ‘sea monsters’ you’ll ever see.”