The flamboyant cuttlefish is dazzling, but is it venomous?
Two researchers are looking into the toxicity of this tiny, army-crawling cephalopod.
Vocabulary: cuttlefish, cephalopod, appendage, buoyancy, predator, camouflage, venomous
Have you ever seen a cuttlefish walk?
If you stop by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Tentacles” exhibit, you might. The aquarium is one of a handful in the country to display flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi), a diminutive species of cephalopod that often forgoes swimming to crawl, army-style, along the seafloor (or the bottom of a tank).
Internet chatter suggests that the flamboyant cuttlefish — known for ambling along the seafloor and flashing brilliant displays — is toxic. What does the science say?
- Cuttlebones in most cuttlefish allow them to maintain a fixed position in the water, with variable buoyancy, while expending very little energy. Explain why the flamboyant cuttlefish “army-crawl” might be related to their cuttlebone structure.
- What led to the myth that flamboyant cuttlefish are venomous? What are some examples of organisms that seem venomous, but are actually harmless?
- The researchers in the article have not yet found a reliable pattern to toxin distribution in the flamboyant cuttlefish, it appears in different organs/organ systems in different cuttlefish. At this point, scientists are puzzled about it presence. If they cannot kill predators with their toxin, why do you think flamboyant cuttlefish have venom?
- Why did Christine Bedore test whether predators readily ate the flamboyant cuttlefish? What question was she trying to answer with that feeding study?
- Take a minute to look at the pictures and videos of the flamboyant cuttlefish in this resource. After observing the flamboyant cuttlefish, what is one question you have about them?
- One of the researchers talked about the flamboyant cuttlefish jetting away. Explore the jet propulsion system of the squid with this bottle and balloon engineering activity.
- Try this activity where students watch footage of a live octopus and model different ways that these animals can camouflage themselves by changing their body’s texture, shape, size, and color. Read this article to get an even closer look at the chromatophores in squid skin.
- Science Friday has a yearly celebration of all things cephalopod called #CephalopodWeek. During #CephalopodWeek, we have a cephalo-party and explore the amazing world of our tentacled and many armed friends. Explore our collection of cephalopod media and activities!