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Creepy or Cool? Cuttlefish Hatchlings


For the past few weeks aquarists at the Tennessee Aquarium have been monitoring an egg mass which was laid by a cuttlefish pair born and reared at the Aquarium. Shortly after the eggs were removed from the exhibit and placed into a holding tank, tiny cuttlefish began hatching. Carol Haley, the Aquarium’s assistant curator of fishes, said, “The first day about 42 hatchlings appeared. Another 40 or so appeared the following day.”

The hatchlings, called cuttlets, are tiny replicas of their parents. Each individual is small enough to fit inside a quarter teaspoon. Once they emerge from the egg sac, they begin hunting. “They have a pretty big appetite and are ready to use their tentacles to snare the live mysid shrimp we feed them,” said Haley.

These babies are too small to be placed on exhibit like their parents. Right now they use their chromatophores to look like tiny pebbles in the bottom of the holding tank they’ll call home for the next few months. They also use another trick to avoid being a tiny treat for a predator. “Even at their small size they can produce ink,” said Haley. “They will ink more as feisty teenagers, usually when they reach about six months of age.”

When they are six to seven months old, they’ll be large enough to go on exhibit. Until then, Aquarium guests can see these miniature cuttlefish in the Quarantine Room during the 1:30 p.m. Backstage Pass Tour. “Cuttlefish babies are super cute as babies and people are still fascinated by them when they reach adulthood,” said Haley. “They might be the most adorable ‘sea monsters’ you’ll ever see.”


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Photo Credits: Bill Hughes/Tennessee Aquarium



With eight arms and two long tentacles, “Cuttlefish are cephalopods related to squid and octopus,” continues Haley. “Like octopi, cuttlefish have chromatophores, special cells they use to change the color of their skin. They do this for camouflage, to express mood and to attract a mate.”