Cephalopods…don’t you just love them?
Wait, I hear you say, what is a Cephalopod?
So I guess if you are not familiar with the term, or have never heard it before, it might sound like some sort of plant?
It is probably fair to say that just about everybody will have seen either a picture or a video of a Cephalopod at some time or another.
The term Cephalopod refers to a class of mollusks and they consist of the Octopus, the Squid, the Cuttlefish, and the Nautilus. As a keen scuba diver, I have come across all except the Nautilus during dives, and they are, without ‘bigging them up’ too much, amazing animals!
I will describe a little about my experiences of meeting these guys in a bit more detail, but first, here are a few facts about Cephalopds which hopefully will interest you and give you a little understanding of why I love them.
In a word,they are fascinating. The reason for this, is because they have an amazing ability to change their shape, size, texture, and colour in an instant.
I don’t know if this is exactly true of a Nautilus, because as I said, I have never seen one in the sea, but I have seen squid change colour and shape, I have seen cuttlefish perform remarkable ‘dance like’ moves when mating and continuously change their shape, and I have seen incredible octopus change everything about their apearance that you have to pinch yourself to ensure you are not imagining it!
Cephalopods can change colour faster than a chameleon (and that is fast!).
They can change their texture in an instant too, and I will describe this in detail later, and include a short video of me with an octopus shot in Spain which will illustrate this perfectly.
If they want to escape their enemies and changing their appearance dramatically isn’t working, they can of course, use the old ‘squirting ink in the face of the aggressor’ trick. I have seen both octopus and squid do this on many a dive, and they do it so quickly that I am sure any fish thinking of taking a chunk out of one of these guys would have second thoughts as this bluey black cloud of nasty looking ink appears right in their face. Better than that, because it happens so fast, before the fish trying to catch him has realised what is happening, the squid/cuttlefish/octopus has shot away at a terrific speed, so that by the time the cloud of ink disperses, he is nowhere to be seen.
They are actually jet propelled! Not with a jet engine of course, but with a marine equivalent, which means they draw water up into their bodies, and when they want to make a fast escape, they propel the water out jet-like, which speeds them away from their enemy extremely quickly.
One of the coolest facts I learnt about cephalopods, is that they have three hearts and a very well developed brain! How cool is that?!
They are found in all of the oceans in the world.
There are only around 800 species of Cephalops found around the world today, compared to over 30,000 species of bony fish.
As I said, I have seen all types of Cephalopod except a Nautilus, so this is my experience of these incredible animals:
Don’t let this fool you, they are always alert, and move incredibly quickly. The wavy thing you can see around the edge of this cuttlefish is called a ‘skirt’ and this changes colour quite vividly and very quickly.
The body of the cuttlefish can change shape and texture in an instant too, and I have seen them settle on a rock and blend into the rock as if it becomes a part of the rock itself.
Once, on a dive, I came across two cuttlefish performing some kind of pre-mating dance. It was fascinating to see, as one of them, which I am presuming was the male, stodd himself up vertically in the water, and started waving his tentacles around in the face of his mate. I’m sure it must have been attractive to his lady friend, but it looked a bit weird to me!
I knew not to get too close as this was going on, as this was serious stuff. It was great to see, and went on for around 15 minutes before they moved off to do whatever amorous cuttlefish do!
The cuttlefish bone, which many of us have seen as a treat for caged birds, as it is full of calcium, is a smooth white long thin ‘bone’. Many years ago, cuttlefish bones used to be ground up and used as a type of toothpaste.
By now I hope you see why I think these animals are fascinating!
So, if you ever go scuba diving, keep an eye out for cuttlefish, and if you do see one, try and approach them slowly so as not to frighten them off, and you will be rewarded with an intriguing sight, especially if they are inter-acting with others.
After octopus, the squid is my favourite type of Cephalopod.
Here a few of my photographs of squid I have met..
As you can see when comparing the bottom two pictures with the top one, which I took on a night dive, the colours can vary greatly, as can the texture of course.
It is quite common when you see squid, to see them in groups rather than swimming alone. Like the other members of the Cephalopod family, they can move extremely quickly, and again you should approach them calmly and slowly if you want to be rewarded with a prolonged viewing of them going about their business.
The night squid picture I have here is on of my favourites, as the colours and the sheen on the squid really look impressive I think.
Squid hunt their prey by sight, which explains their large eyes I guess.
They catch their prey with their tentacles (or using just two of them actually) and draw them into their mouths, where they eat only the softer parts, discarding the bones.
Scientists seem to be discovering new species and facts about squid all the time, and they appear to have been around in the seas for an incredibly long time.
Squid is of course, a very popular meal, and somebody once told me that the majority of the squid eaten in the world is caught off the South West coast of England in Cornwall. I have no idea if this is true or not, but the guy seemed to have a lot of squid knowledge!
Save the best to last! My favourite of all the Cephalopds.
You can see a picture of me holding a small octopus on a dive in Spain at the top of this post, and I have attached a video here, which I hope can be uploaded properly, of the same octopus, where you will see the transformation it undergoes.
I explained earlier how an octopus can change shape, size, colour, and texture, and more importantly, do all of this in an instant.
I came across the octopus in this video clip on a dive in Spain, and it was passed to me because the dive leader knew I have a keen interest in Cephalopds.
I gently held the octopus, whilst ‘stroking’ it’s head to keep it calm, as you can see in the video.
After a short while, I released the octopus, as the other divers were starting to crowd round, and I was concerned that they might alarm the octopus. (you can see how still I am in the video, whilst there is another diver just behind me flapping his arms around to try and stay in one place, and all of this movement can unsettle any sea life).
When I opened my hands to let go of the octopus, he took a moment or two to look around, then swam off towards the rocks.
As he swam, you can see a great shot of him elongated to see how aerodynamic they are, before he settles on a rock. You can time this if you want, but I guess in less than three seconds the octopus has changed his colour, shape, texture and size to become as one with the rock he landed on.
It is just magical to watch, and I think it is impossible not to be impressed by this.
And that, in a nutshell, is why I love Cephalopds!
(I hope you enjoyed reading about these creatures, and enjoyed the accompanying photographs. I am unsure if the video has uploaded, at the time of posting this to my blog, so if it has not loaded properly, please bear with me while I try and upload it through Youtube – thanks)