Giant Australian Cuttlefish

My Story on the Nasty Cuttlefish of SA

June 30, 2006 | Posted in: Cephalopods, Dive Reports

Location: Port Moorowie, Yorke Peninsula (Sometime in March 2006)

Geoff Prince and I were diving together in shallow water of 5m along a reef to the right of the Port Moorowie boat ramp. This is a glorious place and I recommend that you take a look at it. We plan to go there again in winter when we’re not searching for crays, so I can take my camera. I digress…

I was sticking my head into holes, under ledges, etc.. looking for crayfish. I didn’t see any, but I did come across a small wobbegong about 1.2m (4 feet) in length under an overhang. I admired it for a short time and when I backed out of the overhang there was a small female cuttlefish at a range of about 2m. She approached me and was flashing her colours. I took this to be a bad sign – she was upset with me.

I have been actively attacked by cuttlefish on other occasions, so when she took what I think is the attack pose I hit her away with the wave of my hand. This attack pose is when they point straight at you and close up their tentacles. When they are only a foot from your face, they lunge at you, wrap their tentacles around your head and bite you with their very sharp and very hard beak. I have been fortunate enough to not have been bitten yet – only my equipment has been bitten to date.

Back to the story! This did not deter her, she came back even more angry. I backed away and unclipped my cray snare from my gear. I had moved a good 5m or more from the location where I had come across her and thought she might stop. Oh no…..so I hit her on the head with my snare. Well this continued to raise ire within her and she attacked again, so this time I hit her HARD. That did the trick! She took off to a ledge near the end of my vis. range. To my surprise and terror, she got a friend – a BIG MALE, and he was flashing his colours and heading straight for me with the smaller female just behind him. I wasn’t going to hang about and see if I could fend off two angry cuttlefish, especially a large male. I made a beeline straight for the boat. I swam hard and checked behind to see if they were still coming. Fortunately the male gave up the chase fairly easily.

On arriving back at the boat, my dive buddy Geoff was just getting back there himself. I told him of my saga and he laughed, offering to take me to Whyalla for the (cuttlefish) breeding season. He thinks that it would be good sport to watch the melee. I have not seen this behaviour before. What is it about me? My buddy doesn’t get troubled by cuttlefish!

Has anyone else witnessed this kind of cuttlefish behaviour before, where one cuttle will seek the assistance of another (bigger) cuttle to attack a diver?

Author: Dennis Hutson

Established in 1976, the Marine Life Society of South Australia Inc. is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to understanding, promoting and conserving South Australia's marine biodiversity. Many of the articles found on this blog were originally published in the Society's monthly newsletters or annual journals.

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