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Common cuttlefish


up to 30 centimeters, not counting the arms


changeable color, usually brown tints


2.5 years


crabs, shrimp, snails, bivalves, benthic fish and other cuttlefish


sharks, rays, predator fish, large cuttlefish, dolphins, seals, (diving) seabirds and people



  • Dut: Zeekat
  • Lat: Sepia officinalis
  • Eng: Common cuttlefish
  • Ger: Gemeiner Tintenfisch, Sepia
  • Fren: Sèche
  • Dan: Sepiablæksprutte
Common cuttlefish, Ecomare, Peter van der Wolf

Common cuttlefish

Super fast color changes, mysterious eyes and a spectacular mating ritual. The cuttlefish is an unusual animal. It has a large internal shell as backbone, which serves for improving buoyancy as well as sturdiness. You often find these cuttlebones on the beach. They are sold in pet stores as a source of calcium for caged birds. Cuttlefish are easily frightened; it is difficult to display them in a Sea Aquarium. The common cuttlefish is very common in the North Sea, down to a depth of around 150 meters. In the spring, it migrates via the English Channel to coastal waters to reproduce.

  • Color artists
    Young cuttlefish, Ecomare

    Cuttlefish are color artists. They easily adapt to the color of their surroundings. They use rapid color changes during fights, courting and mating. The spectacle of spawning cuttlefish in the Oosterschelde is very special and attracts many scuba divers every year.

  • Cuttlebone
    A carapace of the cuttlefish, Ecomare

    The skeleton of the common cuttlefish is very unusual. It only has a backbone and when the animal dies, this is the only remaining evidence. Should you walk along the beach, you often find these cuttlebones washed ashore. Most people are familiar with cuttlebone sold in pet shops for birds. Birds love them. Cuttlebone is soft and the birds easily peck them for the calcium. They produce sturdier eggs with the extra calcium.

  • Cuttlefish in captivity
    Common cuttlefish, hatching, foto fitis, sytske dijksen

    In 2007, the fishing vessel TX34 caught something usual in its net: eggs from the common cuttlefish. They were brought to Ecomare where they hatched. The young cuttlefish were fed small living shrimp. Cuttlefish hunt in a very different manner than squid. A common cuttlefish spies upon its prey and then swims forward very slowly. It grabs the prey with its two long tentacles.

    Even as very small animals, this manner of hunting was easy to observe at Ecomare. When the cuttlefish were large enough, they were displayed to the public in the aquarium hall. Unfortunately, the animals turned out to be very sensitive to stress. Therefore, they were quickly returned to quieter surroundings out of sight for visitors.

  • Cuttlefish and fisheries
    cuttlefish shell, foto fitis, sytske dijksen

    Since approximately 1965, the number of common cuttlefish in the North Sea has been declining. One blames this on the advance of the beam-trawl fisheries.

    Cuttlefish migrate in massive numbers from the North Sea to the Oosterschelde to mate. Hundreds of scuba divers go to Zeeland to watch this ritual. The adults die after laying eggs. The Oosterschelde is full with nets for catching eel and lobster during the cuttlefish mating season. Some cuttlefish are caught in these nets before they get the chance to reproduce.

    Divers and fishermen in the Oosterschelde have provided mating cuttlefish better places for laying their eggs. Extra ropes have been placed around the lobster traps, especially for the eggs. Racks from willow branches are anchored to the bottom to serve as hiding places. And all scuba divers have been requested not to cut cuttlefish free from the lobster traps. Since the animals die after laying their eggs, it doesn't make any sense.