Common cuttlefish

Common Cuttlefish

Common Cuttlefish ©Alex Mustard/2020VISION

Common cuttlefish

Scientific name: Sepia officinalis
Cuttlefish are related to squids and octopuses – a group of molluscs known as cephalopods. You may have seen the chalky internal shell, called a cuttlebone washed up on beaches around the UK. These are often used in budgie cages, as a calcium-rich dietary supplement for the bird.

Species information


Length: up to 45cm Average Lifespan: 2 years

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


Common cuttlefish are the largest found in UK seas and a fierce predator. They make light work of crabs, fish and even small cuttlefish! They live in water up to 200 metres deep but come to shallow waters to breed in spring. Their eggs are dyed black with cuttlefish ink, which gives them the appearance of grapes – giving them their name ‘sea grapes’. Cuttlefish usually live for two years and die after they have bred.

How to identify

Cuttlefish are a chunky squid-like creature with a well-developed head, large eyes and mouths with beak-like jaws. They have a fin that runs around their body, eight 'arms' with suckers plus two tentacles around the mouth. Cuttlefish are extremely variable in colour, but are usually blackish-brown, mottled or striped. The cuttlebones found washed ashore are white, chalky and oval-shaped with thin harder 'wings' at one end.


Found around all coasts of the UK, more common on south and west coasts.

Did you know?

Cuttlefish can quickly change colour and texture to merge into their background, distract predators or attract mates. They can easily mimic different types of seabed and will sometimes even sink into a sandy seabed to hide from predators, leaving only their eyes exposed. During spring and summer, males engage in spectacular displays to attract females, passing pulses of colour rapidly along their bodies.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or take a look at our Action pages.