There’s a new addition to the dwarf cuttlefish (Sepia bandensis) exhibit in the Tropic Zone – a cluster of black eggs, attached by sticky threads from some coral.
There are two male and four female dwarf cuttlefish in the exhibit, and judging by the number of eggs laid, it looks as though they have been, uh… busy. Hannah Evans, the animal care specialist in charge of the Aquarium’s tropical saltwater exhibits, says that in just the past month and a half, the dwarf cuttlefish have laid at least 100 eggs.
The eggs are left in the exhibit for visitors to take a look at, but after a couple of days, Hannah moves them behind the scenes so she can monitor their health. The grape-like eggs look black because the dwarf cuttlefish mother infuses ink into the egg cases. The eggs gradually lose this colouration in the three weeks it takes for the eggs to hatch. Then, you can actually see the mini dwarf cuttlefish move about inside their individual eggs. At this point, they are miniature versions of the adults, and can even change the colour of their skin.
Dwarf cuttlefish babies start eating three days after they’ve hatched, and will thrive as long as they have enough to eat. Hannah feeds them mysids (tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans). Within one month, they will grow one centimetre – about the length of a pinky fingernail.
If you see these octopus-cousins lined up head to head here at the Aquarium, there’s a pretty good chance they’re creating the next generation of dwarf cuttlefish.