Sepia latimanus

Geographic Range

Broadclub cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus) range from the Indian Ocean to the western Pacific Ocean, to the north of Australia. Their geographic range spreads from the Andaman Sea, which is east of the Indian subcontinent, to the the northern coast of Australia in the Pacific Ocean. More specifically, broadclub cuttlefish are found in the Malacca Strait, the South and East China Sea, the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea, and off the coast of Fiji. (Bonnaud, et al., 2006)


Broadclub cuttlefish reside in relatively shallow water, about 30 m deep. When spawning they swim closer to the shore to deposit their eggs in coral reefs. Their cuttlebone, which provides buoyancy, makes it difficult for the cuttlefish to remain in deeper water. Because they live in shallower water and coral reef regions, the water temperature of their habitat is warm, ranging between 16 and 30°C. Broadclub cuttlefish often hide in the crevices of coral reefs in order to evade predators and watch for prey. (Sherrard, 2000)

  • Range depth
    10 to 30 m
    32.81 to 98.43 ft

Physical Description

Broadclub cuttlefish have an oval-shaped mantle – the structure on the dorsal wall of their bodies – and narrow fins extending along the sides. This species of cuttlefish gets its name from the crescent shaped, club-like limbs located on either side of their mantle, between their fins and tentacles. They grow up to 50 cm long, not including tentacles, and weigh as much as 10 kg.

Cuttlefish have the ability to change their appearance in order to blend in with their surroundings, to frighten predators or prey, and to attract mates. Broadclub cuttlefish display 13 body patterns. These patterns include 6 that are chronic and may last for hours, and 7 that are acute, only lasting for seconds or minutes. Change in appearance in cuttlefish is facilitated by several components, including 34 chromatic components, 6 textural, 8 postural, and 6 locomotor components. These components allow for changes in color, texture, posture, and movement. Young cuttlefish can display almost the full array of patterns that adult cuttlefish can – a feature not seen in other cephalopods.

Broadclub cuttlefish tentacles are lined with suckers, which vary in size. Their skin is covered with papillae, which can be altered in size and shape with changing body patterns. One of their most distinguishing features is their cuttlebones, which is more of an internal shell than a bone. It is broad and flat and gives cuttlefish heads their characteristic shape. Cuttlebones are also porous, helping cuttlefish remain buoyant.

Male and female cuttlefish are differentiated by markings on the skin; males have irregular, transverse lines across their mantles, upper fins, and tentacles. Females do not have these lines, but they do have elongated ocelli, or eyespots, on their fins. Males are also generally larger than females. Cuttlefish are usually measured in mantle length, excluding the length of their tentacles. Males have mantle lengths of around 170 mm, while females have mantle lengths of around 240 mm. (Barratt and Allcock, 2012; Hanlon and Messenger, 1988; Sherrard, 2000)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range mass
    10 (high) kg
    22.03 (high) lb
  • Range length
    170 to 240 mm
    6.69 to 9.45 in


Fertilization of eggs of this species occurs externally. Females first deposit their eggs and use stored sperm from a male to fertilize them. Broadclub cuttlefish have eggs of roughly 1.8 to 2 cm in diameter, and they take about 40 days from the time they are fertilized to hatch. Because these eggs are transparent, young cuttlefish can be seen growing inside. Researchers have reported being able to see specific colors, patterns, and postures of baby cuttlefish inside their eggs. A study performed off the western coast of Guam (Hanlon and Messenger, 1988) showed that movement can be seen around day 15 of gestation, and the mantle and head can be seen at day 18. More detailed features such as eyes, heart, and cuttlebone are visible by day 20, and cuttlefish can change color and propel themselves within their egg sacs by day 30.

Juvenile broadclub cuttlefish eventually break out of the egg by propelling the pointed anterior ends of their cuttlebones at the egg sac wall with force. Newborn cuttlefish are about 14 mm in mantle length with arms of 2 mm. By the time they reach maturity they are about 160 mm long in mantle length. Growth is indeterminate, meaning they continue growing their whole life. (Corner, 1980; Hanlon and Messenger, 1988; Pratasik, et al., 2015)


This species is polyandrous, meaning females have multiple male partners. Males of this species tend to wait for females in coral reefs, where the females come to deposit their eggs. Males knows females are ready to mate when they send certain signals. For instance, the skin of sexually active females turns a dark grey color, their arms flail, and their mantle texture becomes tougher. Males also display pre-copulatory patterns and behaviors when they are attracting mates. Almost all of the transverse lines that are characteristic of the male cuttlefish disappear and their skin becomes a light grey color all over the body. Males proceed to reach their tentacles out toward a female and, if she does not respond, he propels himself in the water around her until she responds. More aggressive males will fight off weaker males that have paired up with a female. Hanlon (1988) observed male cuttlefish displaying an aggressive zebra stripe pattern when other males approach. (Corner, 1980)

Broadclub cuttlefish have a dynamic mating procedure. When males are interested in mating with a female, they curl the tips of their tentacles and gently rub them across the foreheads or cheeks of the female in question. Males then blow water around the female in order to propel himself around her and draw her attention. Females signal receptivity by opening their tentacles. Successful males then open their tentacles as well and begin mating. While both sexes change color during mating, males are often a pale grey and female a dark grey color at the time.

Broadclub cuttlefish are gonochoristic; they reproduce sexually via sperm storing and external fertilization. Mating begins when a male inserts spermatophores, or sperm packets, into a female. Male cuttlefish have one specialized “arm”, called a hectocotylus, that is used for this process. It is placed inside the buccal cavity of a female. Females store deposited sperm until they deposit their eggs post-coitally, after which they fertilize their eggs externally. Female cuttlefish attach their eggs to hard surfaces on the ocean floor or within coral reefs. Cuttlefish have a polyandrous mating system; females often mate with more than one male cuttlefish. Repetitive mating is a hallmark of this species, and females will move on to a new male immediately after mating with another. (Corner, 1980; Norman and Reid, 2000)

  • Breeding interval
    Cuttlefish do not live long after reproduction, although after copulation the female may move on to another male.
  • Breeding season
    January through May
  • Range number of offspring
    10 to 30
  • Range gestation period
    38 to 44 days
  • Average gestation period
    40 days
  • Average time to independence
    1 minutes
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    10 to 16 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    12 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    12 to 18 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    16 months

Broadclub cuttlefish show little involvement with their offspring after females deposit eggs. Observations have shown that females do not usually return to the sites where they leave their eggs, and young cuttlefish eventually hatch and swim off on their own. (Corner, 1980; Norman and Reid, 2000)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Cuttlefish generally only live long enough to reproduce, which they do after 14 to 18 months. Adult cuttlefish begin to die off at the end of their breeding season. Cuttlefish are often eaten by larger fish, and are frequently fished for and eaten by humans. Cuttlefish living in captivity have not been known to have longer lifespans than those in the wild. (Chikuni, 1987; Dan, et al., 2012)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    0 to 2 years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    0 to 2 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    0 to 2 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    0 to 2 years


Broadclub cuttlefish differ from other cuttlefish species in that they spend their time in relatively shallow water. They also move further inshore to deposit their eggs for fertilization. They are most active during the daytime, when they swim around coral reefs looking for prey to catch. Although many cephalopods, including broadclub cuttlefish, are thought to be solitary fish, a recent study done off the coast of Okinawa Island in Japan has suggested that they may travel in schools. Yasumuro et al. (2015) reported that groups of broadclub cuttlefish exhibited similar postures and patterns, although their colors varied when the colors of their surroundings varied. It was also observed that new broadclub cuttlefish joining the group would acclimate to the group, eventually exhibiting the same body patters. It was reported that these cuttlefish fish would all swim in the same direction, equidistant from one another. They may do this for protection against predators or to find potential mates.

Cuttlefish are often seen changing their body patterns when they are involved in different behaviors. For example, mating patterns differ from hunting patterns, which differ from camouflage patterns, and so on. Cuttlefish will also travel to shallower water if they are looking for a mate. Typically, males will go after females, and often compete with one another for mates. (Pratasik, et al., 2015; Yasumuro, et al., 2015)

Home Range

Cuttlefish roam no more than 25 km^2 around where they live. The maximum range they travel is 550 m. They do not actively defend a territory. (Aitken, et al., 2005)

Communication and Perception

Cuttlefish do not have ears; instead they have ciliated cells situated dorsally and laterally that allow them to detect vibrations around them. This is how broadclub cuttlefish sense predators or prey. Cuttlefish are thought to possibly communicate with other cuttlefish via color change patterns. This has been observed during mating and hunting prey. The diverse components responsible for their color changing ability allows cuttlefish skin to make polarized reflective patterns between color patterns. In addition, they have photoreceptors in their eyes that allow them to detect the polarization of the light. (Hanlon and Budelmann, 1987; Mathger, et al., 2009)

  • Communication Channels
  • visual

Food Habits

Broadclub cuttlefish hunt their prey using their mesmerizing body patterns. They can also change colors to blend in with their surroundings if they want to sneak up on prey. They are generally diurnal, hunting during the daytime for smaller fish and crustaceans. Cuttlefish are known to prey specifically on shrimp and prawns of the genus Palaemon, although they are opportunistic feeders, so they often eat what is available. They hunt for small prey along the bottom of the ocean and propel water to move sand that may be hiding prey. When broadclub cuttlefish find something to eat, all tentacles are extended and their two feeding tentacles grab prey to pull it into their mouths. (Cornet, et al., 2014; "Cuttlefish Biology", 2014)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • aquatic crustaceans


Broadclub cuttlefish are only hunted by larger animals, most commonly sharks. The biggest predator of broadclub cuttlefish is humans (Homo sapiens). They were found to be one of the most important prey items for bottlenose dolphins, (Tursiops aduncus), in a 2000-2002 study. (Amir, et al., 2005; Pratasik, et al., 2015)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

The main role the cuttlefish plays in the ecosystem is as a predator. Broadclub cuttlefish spend most of their time looking for food and eating. They also serve as prey for larger animals, including sharks, bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus), and humans (Homo sapiens). Parasites of the phylum Dicyemida are often found in the renal and pancreatic appendages of cuttlefish. ("Cuttlefish Biology", 2014; Furuya, 2008)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Dicyemid parasites

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Cephalopods, particularly cuttlefish, are extensively fished throughout the waters of the Mediterannean and those surrounding Southeast Asia. Cuttlefish are a popular food item in these areas, although they are rarely served as food in the United States. Their cuttlebones have economic value for people who have pet birds; parrots, parakeets, and other domesticated birds like to chew on the cuttlebone, and it can help improve their health. Cuttlebones provide important nutrients and minerals for birds. It also helps maintain bird beaks, so that they do not become overgrown.

Cuttlefish ink is also something that is used by humans. The genus name Sepia indicates that these fish have brown colored ink, which has been used in inks and dyes. However, in the present day it is mainly used in cooking to add color to sauces or other dishes. Some researchers are looking into the medicinal properties of cephalopod ink. Fahmy et al. (2014) found that Sepia ink is effective in fighting the invasive fungus Aspergillus fumigatus responsible for some lung infections. However, this is not a major reason the cuttlefish is hunted. (Chikuni, 1987; Fahmy, et al., 2014; Hanlon and Messenger, 1988)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of broadclub cuttlefish on humans.

Conservation Status

Broadclub cuttlefish are categorized as "Data Deficient" on the IUCN Red List. Because their geographic range is so large, it is hard to tell exactly how many exist in the wild. This species is fished across its range, and global warming negatively affects coral reefs in which they reside. However, cuttlefish losses from these factors have not yet been estimated. Cuttlefish capture for food has also not been estimated. This species is not found on other lists, as it is not a species that is found in or around the United States. (Barratt and Allcock, 2012)


Hannah Markowitz (author), Radford University - Fall 2015, Cari Mcgregor (editor), Radford University, Zeb Pike (editor), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, April Tingle (editor), Radford University, Jacob Vaught (editor), Radford University, Galen Burrell (editor), Special Projects.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

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Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

indeterminate growth

Animals with indeterminate growth continue to grow throughout their lives.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


an animal that mainly eats fish


Referring to a mating system in which a female mates with several males during one breeding season (compare polygynous).


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


mature spermatozoa are stored by females following copulation. Male sperm storage also occurs, as sperm are retained in the male epididymes (in mammals) for a period that can, in some cases, extend over several weeks or more, but here we use the term to refer only to sperm storage by females.


uses touch to communicate


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate


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Amir, O., P. Berggren, S. Ndaro, N. Jiddawi. 2005. Feeding ecology of the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) incidentally caught in the gillnet fisheries off Zanzibar, Tanzania. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 63/3: 429-437.

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Cornet, V., J. Henry, E. Corre. 2014. Dual role of the cuttlefish salivary proteome in defense and predation. Journal of Proteomics, 108: 209-222.

Dan, S., K. Hamasaki, T. Yamashita, M. Oka, S. Kitada. 2012. Age-based life cycle traits of the broadclub cuttlefish Sepia latimanus confirmed through release-recapture experiments. Aquatic Biology, 17/1: 181-195.

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