Missing: South Australia’s ocean giant
There is a giant in the oceans of South Australia that’s missing in action
Do you know who I am?
Normally, my species have a mass spawning event, over May- August for a mate. We compete so furiously for a mate that when we have found a mate and have reproduced we die. Legend has it that the South Australian Spawning event is a one of a kind event across the world.
I have special cells called Chromatophores that allow me to change colour and camouflage. This allows me to imitate rocks, seaweeds and even sand. Yes, I am THAT good.
I am great at throwing off a potential predator by shooting out ink as a diversion. I can make an ink cloud the same shape as me, whilst I swim away. You could even call me a shape shifter.
I am colour blind, but I use polarised light to detect my prey.
Oh, yes and I’m really smart. Apparently I am one of the smartest species in the ocean.
Alright, I can’t keep you guessing any longer – I’m an Australian Giant Cuttle or Sepia apama!
Well okay, you got me – clearly I, the author of this blog post, am not a Giant Cuttle!
It has been quite shocking to learn about the decline that has been noticed of Giant Cuttle in the South Australian breeding ground. The species has now been listed as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN.
There have been a lot of articles recently about the decline seen in Giant Cuttle, but cause of the decline is not really known. According to sources, a couple of years ago, the giant cuttle covered the ocean floor, and now there are only 10 seen on a 1.5km stretch.
I was lucky enough to talk to a number of people who have been to see the spawning aggregation, and they have said that it is no doubt one of the most amazing things to witness. The spawning aggregation did not occur this year. Divers around the area have been reported as saying that the low numbers could mean the end of the spawning aggregation for good. A spawning aggregation of this size occurs no where else in the world and is unique to Point Lowly.
A task force has been set up to monitor and attempt to understand more about the species. I hope that the research continues and is able to draw some conclusions on what is actually occurring with the Point Lowly population.
Development Vs. Conservation
Close to Point Lowly is the mining town of Whyalla which continues to boom. Developments near Point Lowly continue to be proposed. A Catalyst show from a while ago looked at the problems associated with development and conservation of the Point Lowly population.
For now Point Lowly has been saved – The Olympic Dam development proposed by BHP Billiton has been put on hold.
Will the Giant Cuttle win the battle?
Hopefully! But given their short life cycle, and the direct correlation between the previous years spawning aggregation success and the next years total population it is unlikely there will be a change. We may have lost one of the worlds wonders for good.
I know I’ve been a bit depressing about Giant Cuttle going missing – It even made me a bit sad writing this post… So I’ll leave you with a super cool video which cheered me up and shows how cool the camouflage mechanisms in Cephalopods (Squid, Octopus and Cuttle) really are!
The video is narrated partly by Roger Hanlon, a Cepalopod expert. Source: Youtube