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'Sucker-bum squid' and other intriguing molluscs

By: James O'Hanlon, Category: Science, Date: 16 Jul 2015

 What do a pygmys, dumplings and sucker-bums have in common?

The Australian Museum's Collection Manager of Malacology Dr Mandy Reid has a fascination for molluscs, but some more than others. Of particular interest to Dr Reid are the cuttlefish (Sepiidae), the dumpling squid (Sepiolidae) and the pygmy squid (Idiosepius).

Pygmy squid are tiny cephalopods that inhabit inshore waters. Dr Reid is currently describing a new species of pygmy squid in collaboration with Dr Jan Strugnell from La Trobe University.

These squid live in seagrass beds and they attach to the seagrass blades with an adhesive pad at the back of the upper side of their body (see the paler milky-looking patch on the squid in the picture). “It is this rather unusual feature that led to one of my Australian Museum colleagues coining the name 'sucker-bum squid' – quite an apt name for this species”, says Dr Reid.

The name apparently stuck.

Another cephalopod that Dr Reid is particularly interested in is the Giant Australian Cuttlefish.

Cuttlefish may be best known for their cuttlebone – which is often seen washed-up along our beaches. But few people are aware of what the actual animal looks like, including their rather unique hunting apparatus called the “club”, which is employed to snare their prey. It sits on the end of their tentacle and is unleashed when they want to catch something to eat. Fish and crustaceans (crabs etc.) are particular favourites.

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Want to learn more about these intriguing creatures? Our expert Malacology team are presenting at the Australian Museum Science Festival, 11–20 August 2015.

To see the full story check out Behind the scenes at the Australian Museum on ABC Splash.