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Metasepia Pfefferi Classification Essay

Home » Metasepia pfefferi (Flamboyant Cuttlefish)

Taxonomy [top]


Scientific Name:Metasepia pfefferi (Hoyle, 1885)
Common Name(s):
EnglishFlamboyant Cuttlefish
FrenchSeiche flamboyante
SpanishSepia llamativa
Sepia pfefferi Hoyle, 1885

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published:2012
Date Assessed:2009-03-11
Assessor(s):Barratt, I. & Allcock, L.
Reviewer(s):Reid, A., Rogers, Alex & Bohm, M.
Contributor(s):Herdson, R. & Duncan, C.
Metasepia pfefferi has been assessed as Data Deficient since there are no data available on the impact of harvesting for the aquarium trade. Other potential future threats include ocean acidification caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The geographic distribution of this species includes northern Australia from Mandurah, western Australia, to Moreton Bay, southern Queensland and the southern coast of New Guinea (Reid et al. 2005).
Countries occurrence:
Australia (Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia); Papua New Guinea (Papua New Guinea (main island group))
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – western central
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):86
Upper depth limit (metres):3
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The population size of this species is unknown.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species is a demersal neritic species found on sand and muddy habitats in shallow waters (Reid et al. 2005). It is typically well camouflaged but when disturbed changes to bright, warning colouration (Reid et al. 2005). It is active by day preying on fish and crustaceans (Reid et al. 2005). The female spawns large white eggs into crevices or under ledges in coral, rock, wood or coconut shells (Norman 2003). This species has direct developing young (Norman 2003).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This brightly coloured species may be collected for the aquarium fish trade (Reid et al. 2005).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Ocean acidification caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is potentially a threat to all cuttlefish. Studies have shown that under high pCO2 concentrations, cuttlefishes actually lay down a denser cuttlebone which is likely to negatively affect buoyancy regulation (Gutowska et al. 2010). This species is characterised by bright colours and patterns and interesting behaviours that may make it a popular in the aquarium trade (Reid et al. 2005).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Research is required on the trends in population size, and whether harvesting is having an impact on the population size of this species.

Pfeffer's flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi) is a small (6-8 cm long, excluding the tentacles) species of cuttlefish occurring in tropical Indo-Pacific waters off northern Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.  These creatures live in shallow waters, on mud or sandy bottoms, and are remarkable in being the only cuttlefish known to “walk” along the sea floor rather than swim.  When threatened, they boldly hold their ground rather than dart away as do other cuttlefish species.  This strategy is thought possible because M. pfefferi has recently been discovered to have poisonous flesh (the only toxic cuttlefish), perhaps with toxicity similar to that of the deadly blue-ringed octopuses, genus Hapalochlaena.  Its toxins, a very different class from those used by Hapalochlaena, are being investigated for potentially useful bioactive molecules (Fremlin 2011; Allen et al. 2013; Williams et al. 2011). 

The common name of M. pfefferi describes well their dramatic color and pattern changing abilities, used for communication and camouflage.  As soon as they hatch, the direct-developing juveniles, miniature versions of the adults, are able to color-change as adults do (Protect our coral sea 2009-14; Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation 2014; MarineBIo Conservation Society 2013).

Although not especially common, flamboyant cuttlefish have been cultured in captivity.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium has bed many generations and makes them available to other institutions.  They are also popular in the aquarium industry, though they live only about a year and are very difficult to breed.  Their population status and the impact of potential threats such as harvesting and ocean acidification, is at this point unknown (Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation 2014; Barratt and Allcock 2012).


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