Aquatic biologist Richard Ross began a dwarf cuttlefish breeding program at the California Academy of Sciences in April.
What is a cuttlefish? It’s a cephalopod, so it’s directly related to octopus and squid. Cephalopods are mollusks, so they’re also related to snails.
What makes this species unique? They’re small — they max out at about 4 inches here. In the wild we see them much smaller because in captivity there’s no predation.
Where is the species found naturally? In reef habitats all over the Indo-Pacific. It seems they do just fine in reef habitats that have been dynamited. A big problem in the South Pacific is dynamite fishing — they throw dynamite in and the dead fish float up.
How did you begin the program? We got wild-caught eggs and raised them up. They start breeding at four or five months and start laying eggs between months five and seven.
Has the breeding program been a success? This species hasn’t really been worked with professionally until now. I’d bred these guys before I worked here, but usually I would just get a few of the captive-laid eggs to hatch. Here, we’re already in the hundreds. I think having the resources of the Academy has really made a difference.
What do you feed them? When they’re very small we feed them mysis (tiny shrimp). Then they start getting on saltwater grass shrimp and when they outgrow that we give them locally caught bait shrimp.