by Kaitlin Bureck
It doesn’t happen regularly, but every once in a while, you will come across an animal that leaves you truly perplexed. There are animals that hold hands, throw punches, mimic leaves, change sexes, have two jaws, regenerate limbs, and have cube-shaped poop. If we were to rank* the perplexities that exist in the animal kingdom however, the top spot would belong to the cuTTlefish**. Not only do they have three hearts and can mimic the shape and texture of their surroundings, but they can also count better than human babies! For these reasons alone, cuTTlefish deserve to be a top contender for the prestigious Perplexity Prize but they have another surprising trick up their tentacle that really sets them apart.
Photo by: Justin Gilligan
Male cuTTlefish compete with one another to catch the attention of females in the hopes of mating with them. These competitions can be very aggressive and often involve barrel rolls, squirts of black ink, and an exchange of bites using hardened beaks. As is the case in many similar debacles, the larger male generally wins the fight. Ironically however, their efforts and injuries may not lead to a successful mating opportunity with observing females. This is because small male cuTTlefish are able to sneak past the fighting males by disguising as a female. The steps to doing so are pretty straightforward, (1) mimic muted female colours, (2) tuck in their tentacles to appear as if they are carrying eggs, and (3) rely on their smaller size. Once they get past the larger competitive males, the smaller males will reveal themselves to the females by turning on a colourful display and, well, you know what happens next.
So, there you have it, an animal whose perplex, peculiar, and puzzling abilities are worthy or recognition and celebration. I challenge you to embody the cuTTlefish – the ultimate trickster – on this special day. I myself, am looking forward to challenging babies to counting contests.
* Every animal is beautiful and unique in its own way
** Although I cannot comment about whether these animals like cuddling, I can confirm that these animals are not referred to as cuddlefish
Kaitlin is a member of our Communications Committee. See her last blog post "It's Raining Adaptations, Hallelujah!" here.