Flamboyant Cuttlefish - Oceana

Cephalopods, Crustaceans, & Other Shellfish

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Metasepia pfefferi


Tropical Indo-Pacific waters off Southern New Guinea, Northern Australia, and surrounding islands


Sandy-bottomed tropical waters

Feeding Habits

Active predator


Order Sepiida, Genus Metasepia


The flamboyant cuttlefish has two tentacles and eight arms. When pursuing their prey, the cuttlefish uses their tentacles to quickly reach out and strike their target and bring it to their beak to feed . Flamboyant cuttlefish are carnivorous, and their diet includes bony fish and crustaceans. Their primary predators include seals, dolphins, and larger fish.1

Cuttlefish have a specialized, hollow feature called a cuttlebone that helps the animal maintain buoyancy by adjusting the levels of gas and liquid in its chambers.1 Because the flamboyant cuttlefish’s cuttlebone is relatively small, this species can only float and swim for short amounts of time. Instead of swimming, flamboyant cuttlefish “walk” along the ocean floor using their arms. They also have a highly developed sensory system that helps them respond and adjust to their surroundings.

The base color of the flamboyant cuttlefish is dark brown with some yellow and purple spots around the arms. However, their skin contains chromatophores, or specialized pigment cells that can change the color of the skin.2 These chromatophores create a vibrant display of flashing colors on the flamboyant cuttlefish’s body. This color change occurs for several reasons; the cuttlefish may be trying to attract prey, threaten predators, or put on a mating display.1 Like other cephalopods such as the blue-ringed octopus, the bright colors indicate the cuttlefish’s venomous status to potential predators.

This species has a relatively short lifespan of 18 to 24 months, and females die soon after they mate and lay their eggs. The flamboyant cuttlefish’s breeding season lasts for 6 to 8 weeks in the springtime. One female can mate with several males; fertilization occurs internally when the male places spermatophores into a pouch under the female’s mantle. The female lays her eggs in covered areas, such as under rocks and corals, in order to protect the eggs from predators. Although the conservation status of the flamboyant cuttlefish is unknown, human activities such as bottom trawling are a potential threat to their ocean floor habitat.3

Fun Facts about Flamboyant Cuttlefish

1. When threatened, the flamboyant cuttlefish is able to release a cloud of ink to confuse predators and safely escape from danger.

2. Female flamboyant cuttlefish have been known to get creative when laying their eggs, placing them in coral reef crevices, beneath rocks, and even under coconut shells in order to protect the eggs from predators.

3. The cuttlebone found in the flamboyant cuttlefish’s body evolved from a hard exterior shell.3

4. The flamboyant cuttlefish is one of three known venomous cephalopod species and the is the only known venomous cuttlefish species.

5. Unlike other cephalopods, the flamboyant cuttlefish is not nocturnal and frequently hunts in the daytime.

Engage Youth with Sailors for the Sea

Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.

Kids Environmental Lesson Plans

Additional Resources:

1. Animal Diversity Web

2. MarineBio

3. Encyclopedia of Life