Cuttlefish or cuttles are marine molluscs of the order Sepiida. They belong to the class Cephalopoda, which also includes squid, octopuses, and nautiluses. Cuttlefish have a unique internal shell, the cuttlebone.
Cuttlefish have large, W-shaped pupils, eight arms, and two tentacles furnished with denticulated suckers, with which they secure their prey. They generally range in size from 15 to 25 cm (6 to 10 in), with the largest species, Sepia apama, reaching 50 cm (20 in) in mantle length and over 10.5 kg (23 lb) in mass.
Cuttlefish eat small molluscs, crabs, shrimp, fish, octopus, worms, and other cuttlefish. Their predators include dolphins, sharks, fish, seals, seabirds, and other cuttlefish. The average life expectancy of a cuttlefish is about 1–2 years. Recent studies indicate cuttlefish are among the most intelligent invertebrates. Cuttlefish also have one of the largest brain-to-body size ratios of all invertebrates.
The “cuttle” in cuttlefish comes from the Old English name for the species, cudele, which may be cognate with the Old Norse koddi (cushion) and the Middle Low German Kudel (rag). The Greco-Roman world valued the cuttlefish as a source of the unique brown pigment the creature releases from its siphon when it is alarmed. The word for it in both Greek and Latin, sepia, now refers to the reddish-brown color sepia in English.
Three-sided white plate containing linguini
Linguine with cuttlefish and ink sauce served at a Venetian osteria
Cuttlefish are caught for food in the Mediterranean, East Asia, the English Channel, and elsewhere.
In East Asia, dried, shredded cuttlefish is a popular snack food. In the Qing Dynasty manual of Chinese gastronomy, the Suiyuan shidan, the roe of the cuttlefish is considered a difficult-to-prepare, but sought-after delicacy.
Cuttlefish are quite popular in Europe. For example, in northeast Italy, they are used in risotto al nero di seppia (risotto with cuttlefish ink), also found in Croatia and Montenegro as crni rižot (black risotto). Catalan cuisine, especially that of the coastal regions, uses cuttlefish and squid ink in a variety of tapas and dishes such as arròs negre. Breaded and deep-fried cuttlefish is a popular dish in Andalusia. In Portugal, cuttlefish is present in many popular dishes. Chocos com tinta (cuttlefish in black ink), for example, is grilled cuttlefish in a sauce of its own ink. Cuttlefish is also popular in the region of Setúbal, where it is served as deep-fried strips or in a variant of feijoada, with white beans. Black pasta is often made using cuttlefish ink.