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Less widely known than their cephalopod cousins the octopus and squid, cuttlefish are masters of disguise. They conceal themselves using chromatophores, which are specialized skin cells that hold pigment and reflect light. With up to 200 of these cells per square millimeter, cuttlefish can transform their appearance with a variety of hues and patterns. When vying for a mate, for example, some male cuttlefish will showcase “intense zebra displays,” creating an almost hypnotic pattern of animated stripes. Cuttlefish also boast one of the largest brain-to-body size ratios of any invertebrate. According to some scientists studying cephalopod learning, cuttlefish can use visual clues to solve mazes, making them more intelligent than many vertebrates and land mammals. Photo: Peter Hellberg

October 8-12 are International Cephalopod Awareness Days!

This adorable deep-sea cephalopod (pictured below) flaps its ear-like fins as it moves through the water–a behavior that’s earned it the name “Dumbo octopus,” after Disney’s flying elephant. In fact, there’s an entire family of “Dumbo octopuses,” with more than a dozen species, observed in oceans worldwide. These are some of the deepest-dwelling octopuses, known to sit on or skim the seafloor at depths of up to 13,000 feet, and to feed on prey like bristleworms by swallowing it whole. “Ear-flapping”–or, more accurately, fin-swimming–is just one of the several ways they can move; and sometimes, they just drift along. 

Photo: NOAA

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Baby Octopus!
Credits: Adrian Kozakiewicz
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