‘Alien-Like’ Cuttlefish’s Skin Changes Color, Displays Stunning Rainbow Hues During Mating Season

May 30, 2020 Updated: May 30, 2020

It was the perfect time to photograph the magnificent cephalopod that changes the color of its skin. During its time of mating, the male cuttlefish puts on an otherworldly rainbow display of orange, purples, turquoises, and yellows.

Thirty-year-old photographer David Edgar and his wife, Alice, were in the right place at the right time, in Cabbage Tree Bay, near Manly Beach, Sydney, Australia, to witness and photograph the spectacle of these sea animals.

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A rainbow-colored male cuttlefish making a grab for the photographer’s lens (Caters News)

It a desperate bid to “impress the ladies” during their brief lives—cuttlefish live only for one or two years—male cuttlefish transform the color of their skin into a stunning color pattern that is truly dazzling, as Edgar’s photographs show.

“These photos are of the giant cuttlefish, the largest species of cuttlefish in the world that are found in the waters of southern Australia,” Edgar told Caters. “The giant cuttlefish are able to change their color and texture of their skin in a matter of seconds—either to camouflage into their surroundings, to ward off predators or to attract a mate.”

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Photographer’s wife, Alice Edgar, 31, swims with the colorful cuttlefish. (Caters News)

Cuttlefish are a relative of the octopus and squid and inhabit shallow or temperate coastal waters, migrating to deeper waters in winter. There are approximately 100 species of this cephalopod, the most common of which breed during spring and summer and lay about 100 to 300 eggs, Encyclopedia Britannica says.

Their incredible ability to change color and texture allows them to blend perfectly into their underwater surroundings. Cuttlefish are also able to shoot plumes of ink as a defense mechanism in order to escape from predators. Yet, during mating season, as Edgar’s photos reveal, males also have the ability to stand out brilliantly.

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One lonely cuttlefish with a bit of a long face (Caters News)

“The male cuttlefish often adopt striking rainbow patterns during the mating season in an attempt to impress the females,” he says. “The cuttlefish are typically quite shy and are often found hiding under rocks.

“However, during the mating season, the larger males often put on flamboyant multi-colored displays as they swim openly in the bay.”

Edgar shoots his underwater wildlife photos as a freediver, which means he dives with no underwater breathing apparatuses, holding his breath for two or three minutes at a time—an activity he and his partner, Alice, got into when she noticed awe-inspiring images of people diving among humpback whales on Instagram. He considers himself a “serious amateur” freediver photographer.

He says that freediving is the most unobtrusive and “best way to connect with the animals of our oceans on their terms,” according to his website Edgar Pacific Photography.

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Alice Edgar swims with the colorful cuttlefish (Caters News)

The cuttlefish don’t seem to mind the pair of freedivers in their midst, as they are busy with business of their own.

“They aren’t particularly concerned by divers when they are focused on finding a mate,” says Edgar. “Giant cuttlefish have a reputation for ‘living fast and dying young’—only living 1–2 years, so they really need to focus on finding a mate.”

Meanwhile, they are among the strangest animals in the world. “They have three hearts and green blood, making them one of the most alien-like animals in the world,” Edgar says.

Edgar and his wife, Alice, have also dived with and photographed other magnificent marine animals such as humpback whales, seals, and manta rays. And more recently, he fulfilled his more dangerous aspiration of diving with orcas, also known as killer whales, in the fjords of arctic Norway, with more stunning images to show for it on his Instagram page.

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Male cuttlefish often adopt striking rainbow patterns during the mating season. (Caters News)
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This eye-catching image show a male cuttlefish trying to impress the ladies. (Caters News)