Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The cuttlefish are odd.
For ten days they painstakingly observed and filmed the intense mating competition between the females and their suitors, including large “guard” males, smaller “sneaker” males, who attempt to mate with females as the guard fights other males, and males who mimic the appearance of a female. In contrast to some other animals, whose ability to mimic is part of their genetic makeup, giant Australian cuttlefish use neural control to instantly change their skin patterning, posture, and tactics. According to Hanlon the cuttlefish can switch between a male and female appearance 10 to 15 times per minute.
Via Eurekalert. I don't need to draw the obvious parallel to primate behavior, do I?

But it does remind me:
This is an animal called the YENA, which is accustomed to live the the sepulchres of the dead and to devour their bodies. Its nature is that at one moment it is masculine and at another moment feminine, and hence it is a dirty brute.
--The Bestiary, T. H. White

It was Kokino who, as well as contributing specimens from his nets to my collection, showed me one of the most novel fishing methods I had ever come across.

I met him one day down by the shore putting a kerosene tin full of sea-water into his rickety little boat. Reposing in the bottom of the tin was a large a very soulful-looking cuttlefish. Kokino had tied a string round it where the head met the great egg-shaped body....

We rowed the boat out into the blue bay until it hung over a couple of fathoms of crystal clear water. Here Kokino took the end of the long string that was attached to the cuttlefish and tied it carefully round his big toe. Then he picked up the cuttlefish and dropped it over the side of the boat....

Suddenly he gave a little grunt...and grasping the line, he started to pull it in.... Presently, in the depths, a dim blur appeared as Kokino hauled more quickly on the line and the cuttlefish came into sight. As it got closer, I saw, to my astonishment, it was not one cuttlefish but two, locked together in a passionate embrace.
--Birds, Beasts, and Relatives, Gerry Durrell