Whyalla Giant Cuttlefish

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Dear Critters,

Last weekend Spunky Abe and I took a 14 hr road trip to visit the beginning of the giant cuttlefish mating aggregation in Whyalla, South Australia. Our good friend and long-time dive buddy Mark met us there and we did a total of two dives with these magnificent creatures.

Cuttlefish Landscape

Each year when the water temperature begins to drop, thousands of giant cuttlefish (also known as sepia apama) make their way into the shallows of the remote coastal town of Whyalla.

There the males can outnumber the females 11:1, resulting in some spectacular efforts on the part of each male to prove himself a worthy mate.

Cuttlefish Close-Up Portrait

The males will dazzle potential mates with extraordinary strobing patterns across their bodies. They flex their longest tentacles, the largest suitors impressing the lady of their choice with their superior size and grace. Competition is fierce and ranges from males out-dancing one another to fighting one another, sometimes even to the death.

Cuttlefish Diagonal

Smaller males have no option other than to resort to subterfuge, masquerading as females to sneak beneath the radar of larger males that may do them harm. Once the larger male has successfully mated head to head with the female, inserting his sperm into a space within her body, alongside the sperm of the many others she may agree to mate with.

Cuttlefish mating

A few hours later, the female will select which donations she will use to fertilise her eggs, attaching them beneath ledges from which the new generation of cuttlefish will emerge.

Cuttlefish Bright Landscape

Neither parent will ever see the new hatchlings; nor will they return to deeper waters. Once their mating duties are completed, both adult males and females will perish, literally disintegrating in the water, their internal shell (commonly known as ‘cuttlefish bone’) leaving one last tell-tale sign of their existence upon the nearby shore. Usually they have lived no more than 18 months, and suspended in the water beside a mate, they seem to have a strange, knowing acceptance of the inevitability of their impending demise.

Three snuggling cuttlefish

The opportunity to observe the mating aggregation of these majestic creatures first hand is sweet and sad, filled with moments of tranquility and intensity. And though as humans we marvel at the undeniable intelligence and ingenuity on display, there are moments when we can feel as though we too are being observed as objects of wonder by these majestic creatures as they briefly share their watery space.

Cuttlefish sleeping

Life is filled with many blissful mysteries. It is my enormous privilege to be able to share this one with you.

Love and bubbles,

PT xxx

ps Due to some technical difficulties, I have many more giant cuttlefish images to add to this post over the coming days, so feel free to come back for another look soon 😀

ps Tanks so much for reading this blog post. While you are here, please check out some more of my ‘scuba vs tumour’ underwater adventures … 🙂

pps And don’t forget to follow Pink Tank Scuba on Facebook, and to subscribe to this blog by email to have all new posts delivered directly to your inbox! 😀





15 thoughts on “Whyalla Giant Cuttlefish

  1. A journey that most certainly leaves you tangled with emotion knowing that the short life will come to an end. Yet from it all life is born.
    A pleasure sharing this with you guys.
    Great work.
    LP – 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Tank you so much for sharing the adventure, LP! (I had technical issues with this blog piece, so seem to have lost the part about how you met us up there and some other bits I had added as well :-S ) It certainly was a fascinating and bitter-sweet adventure 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • Oh well. You can always edit if need be. 🙂
        Hey I really like the image of the three cuttlefish snuggled in looking out. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Yes – a lot more to these gorgeous critters than just the bone most people find washed up on the beach 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the photos 😀

    • Tanks so much Emilie – I find them one of the most amazing critters in the ocean and I love how chilled they can be 🙂 This was the first time I had ever seen their mating rituals. So glad you enjoyed the video! Love and bubbles (and wishing you many more cuddlefish!) , PT xxx

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