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‘Rock stars of the sea’ put on amazing underwater show in South Australia

Photo: Carl Charter

Nicknamed “the rock stars of the ocean” because they live fast and die young, cuttlefish have a life span of just 12-18 months, so impressive displays are necessary to attract a mate. Photo: Carl Charter

By Andrew Spence

Flowing arms, skins that change colour in an instant, dance battles and petite males disguised as females to trick their rivals – the courting behaviour of the alien-like Giant Australian Cuttlefish would look more at home in a Star Wars night club.

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Each year more than 100,000 of the bizarre creatures gather in South Australia’s Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park in what is the only known mass aggregation of its kind in the world.

Nicknamed “the rock stars of the ocean” because they live fast and die young, cuttlefish have a life span of just 12-18 months. This makes each May to August breeding season critical because the number of surviving eggs one year directly impacts the number of adult cuttlefish that return the next year to breed.

Favourable conditions and a series of law changes, such as fishing bans, have helped the cuttlefish recover in recent years from 13,000 in 2013 to 120,000 in 2017. The 2018 count is yet to be finalised but local experts predict the figure to be higher than last year.

About a third of the 8km strip of rocky reef where the cuttlefish lay their eggs has been a marine park sanctuary since 2014.

The reef is at Point Lowly in the Spencer Gulf, some 20km east of Whyalla and almost 400km from the South Australian capital Adelaide.

Organised community dives have been run for the past three seasons, attracting hundreds of visitors from around Australia and overseas.

Natural Resources Eyre Peninsula Marine Parks Co-ordinator Dr Shelley Paull said recorded cuttlefish numbers peaked in the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.