Mating giant cuttlefish have been putting on a show in South Australia this month as part of their annual breeding in the upper Spencer Gulf. The cuttlefish mate in the colder winter months near Point Lowly in South Australia. The water around the point becomes infested with giant cuttlefish.
Dr Michael Steer from the South Australian research and Development Institute believes there to be hundreds and thousands of giant cuttlefish at any one point in South Australia.
They aggregate on that 10-kilometre stretch to breed. The rocky seabed provides unique and perfect points for the females to anchor eggs. It is the only place in the world where you get those quantities of numbers of cuttlefish.
Much like any other animal species, the male is a bit of a show-off, putting an incredible show of flashing colours and shape-shifting to get the female’s attention.
Because of their show-off behaviour, short life span and impressive sex life the Australian Giant Cuttlefish is often referred to as the Rock star of the Sea explains Dr Michael Steer.
Because their generations turn over so quickly, you get these booms and busts in the population; they are known to "live fast and die young.
Researchers were worried when numbers dropped in 2011, but after a booming 2016, cuttlefish numbers grew rapidly. Last year became the second highest on record and this year’s count has revealed staggering numbers as well.
They are an incredibly fascinating creature, they can change their colour in a fraction of a second and change the texture of its skin.
According to Dr Steer, the male will even copy the female’s appearance to confuse other competing males.
Males will even flash zebra like patterns to attract a mate. According to Dr Steer, the most remarkable thing about these colourful characters is that they are essentially colour blind.
The animals can't perceive the colours as we perceive them but see different shades of grey.
The big show the male cuttlefish put on has attracted more than just the opposite sex. Record numbers of tourist have flocked to the area to view the Giant Cuttlefish sex. So much so, that Dr Steer is concerned about protection.
To see this natural phenomenon and engage in conversation about biology, sustainability, ecosystem function and that sort of stuff is really incredible. It's achieving iconic status in South Australia, and for those interested in marine systems and natural history, Whyalla is a great place to go.