Fancy a squid kiss?
Contributed by Ric Mingramm
Date Line ; Australia, News South Wales, Coffs harbour, South Solitary islands......June
Once again I was privileged enough to dive with my A team (or should it be
eh? team)(Andrew Bennett, Amber Nelson, Troy Stefan) on a recent trip to Coffs
Harbour. One of the most fantastic things about scuba diving is the ability
to react with wild creatures in their natural habitat - and I am not talking
about female European divers - although that is another story.
Often an aggressive sea urchin will attack your knife and on such occasions
the sea life becomes very friendly and it seems as if you are swimming in a
soup of fish. Of course in areas of national parks or marine sanctuaries this
is not the case as the urchins are more well behaved. Apart from fish
and slugs (Nudibranches for those slug and worm officianados') one of the greatest
creatures to interact with is the Giant Cuttlefish. Thanks to our pale
skinned propeller headed English scientists I am able to provide some scientific
facts on this creature and then I will recall our recent encounter.
Giant Cuttlefish - Sepia apama
The Australian giant Cuttlefish is the largest of the world's 100 or so species
The giant Cuttlefish can grow to lengths of 1.5m (5 feet) and weigh nearly
15kg (33 pounds).
Giant Cuttlefish have sucker-lined appendages growing from the head, eight
long and prehensile arms, and two retractile tentacles. Cuttlefish have a highly
developed central nervous system and highly developed complex eyes, which focus
by changing the shape of the eyeball. Light entering the eye is controlled by
the shape of the lid. They may be colour-blind, but they distinguish a vast
number of tones. They have thick, internal calcified shells beneath an elongated
muscular mantle. This mantle is expanded and contracted to expel water from
the mantle cavity through the funnel. The mouth consists of a parrot-like beak,
jaws, and a rasping tongue.
They inhabit coastal waters from western Australia to Tasmania to as far north
as Coffs Harbour.
The main diet of Cuttlefish consists of small fish and crustaceans (such as
prawns and crabs and small reef fish). Cuttlefish shoot out two tentacles, which
are usually tucked away in pouches under their eyes. Prey is pulled into the
powerful suckered arms and then eaten by crushing the animal with their beak.
Giant Cuttlefish can crawl, swim or employ jet propulsion in bursts of surprising
speed. They are usually solitary, attracted to bright colours, and curious about
divers. Cuttlefish have a remarkable facility for changing colour to show aggression,
fear or sexual excitement. Under their skin they possess a dense layer of elastic
pigment sacs called chromatophores, which are used to change their colour. As
camouflage, colour changes are used to match surroundings with extraordinary
accuracy. Like all members of the squid family they use jets of ink to confuse
attackers. These colourful cephalopods aggregate in their millions along the
south Australian coast every autumn. Giant Cuttlefish need a hard substrate
on which to lay their eggs, so they gather on rocky reefs to breed. The result
is one of Australia's great underwater spectacles. The Cuttlefish hover like
alien spacecraft, constantly bickering as they bump into one another in the
dense gathering. Males duel using an intricate combination of colour and body
language, pulsing vivid stripes of blues, purples and greens over their mantles.
Groups of up to seven huge males battle with each other using intense blasts
of colour until one emerges as the winner. He then turns his attentions to the
smaller females, mesmerising them with another kaleidoscopic display.
Fertilisation is internal. Mating takes place when the male places his spermatophore
in a pouch under the female's mouth. The capsules burst, releasing sperm into
the female's mantle, thus fertilising the eggs. After mating a female will lay
about 200 golfball-size eggs among crevices in the reef, which hatch into miniature
adults several months later. These tiny creatures go on to live and develop
for two or three years, longer than any other species of Cuttlefish, which is
perhaps why giant Cuttlefish grow to such an immense size.
Our little Dive Princess Ms Amber is notorious on dives for fondling the sea
creatures..many a turtle, fish, anemone, hydroid can attest to her amorous approaches
in the aquatic world. She is one of those divers who doesn't wear gloves
because she can feel them better!!! On our recent Coffs Harbour trip you knew
if a Giant Cuttlefish
was around that there was a high possibility that the Princess would be finning
towards it arms outstretched - lips pursed, mouthing 'come to me. come to me'.
I must admit she does have the gentle touch and dumb creatures are attracted
to her (present company and A Team members excluded).
Fortunately, the Cecil B Demille or Spielberg for you youngies of our crew (Andrew
the Bitch) is always ready with camera to still or video interactions and slimy
fishy things - even took a picture of some steel for me to placate my wreck
fetish. On this occasion Andrew took some lovely video of Princess Amber
sensually stroking the tentacles of a Giant Cuttlefish. The beast was
irradiating differently colours and gently moving its long tentacles over Princess
Ambers fingers. It all went well until the Giant Cuttlefish said "Enough
foreplay....lets get it on!" and jetted forward and grabbed the Princess'
mask hoping to dislodge it and give her a great big squid kiss. The Princess
was very quick and fended off her would be suitor...it is great video. What's
was more amusing is being at 20 metres and hearing someone laugh...........ah,
the things you see.
We are assured by Mike Davey from Jetty Dive, Coffs Harbour that the Giant Cuttlefish
probably caught a glimpse of its reflection in the mask and was either attempting
to mate or fend off an interloper! He says they usually don't tentacle
kiss on first dates....still I did see some dumpling squid which makes me wonder!!!
Facts courtesy : http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/wildfacts/factfiles/3074.shtml