Cuttlefish

Cape Town Freediving Clip Of The Week 10:

Cuttlefish rank high on our list of animals we like to see while freediving and snorkeling in Cape Town. These half-octopus, half-fish like creatures are highly intelligent and have amazing hunting and evasion abilities. On this freedive at Glencairn, Stephan spotted two cuttlefish in the ‘dead zone’ and captured this funky footage. The ‘dead zone’ is the area from shore out to sea as far as the fishermen can cast their lines. It is heavily fished and seeing anything swimming around here immediately catches your eye. You can see a spark plug lying in the sand in the video. The fishermen use old spark plugs instead of lead sinkers because they snag their hooks and break their lines so much in this spot. It’s best to dive with a knife in case you get stuck in ghost fishing line.

Common cuttlefish (Sepia vermiculata) are related to octopus and squid. They can be found along the entire South African coastline and live in estuaries, lagoons and open ocean up to depths of 200m. They eat molluscs, fish, crabs, worms, octopus and yes… other cuttlefish. Sharks, dolphins, large fish, seals, seabirds and… well… cuttlefish feed on them. They live for around 1-2 years, which like octopus makes their intelligence levels for such a short-lived creature quite remarkable. As you can see in this clip, cuttlefish are able to change their body colour and texture much like an octopus. They also have eight arms, but have two additional long elongated tentacles hidden under their eyes. They shoot these two tentacles out to catch prey and use them during mating. Like octopuses, they too can excrete ink. Cuttlefish ink is squirted from its syphon to create a distraction and confuse predators.

Cuttlefish Changing Colour
Cuttlefish Changing Colour

One major difference to octopus though is the cuttlebone. You’ve probably seen these bones washed up on beaches. They are given to pet birds as a supplement and to sharpen their beaks on. The youngest of the Cape Town Freediving team, six year old Mia, calls these ‘fairy surfboards’. Cuttlefish use the cuttlebone to control their buoyancy.

We continue to be astonished by the number of amazing marine life interactions we have witnessed lately. Freediving in False Bay definitely is one of the best adventure activities in Cape Town during winter!

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