Cuttlefish in captivity: An investigation into housing and husbandry for improving welfare

On the first of January 2013 all cephalopods became protected when used in science in the UK (ASPA 1986) and EU (Directive 2010/63/EU). They are widely used in a variety of research areas and are well known for their significant cognitive abilities  despite being invertebrates with a substantial and growing body of evidence suggesting they feel pain and suffer psychologically.

Sepia officinalis (the common European cuttlefish) is the most used cephalopod in Europe and frequently seen in public aquaria. They and other cephalopods possess extremely fragile bodies and soft, in captivity they can damage easily when startled or fleeing perceived threats and these injuries rarely heal, can cause permanent damage and  even  death.  We determined important environmental preferences, such as substrate and enrichment preference/usage, and reactions to staff husbandry equipment and clothing.

Amongst our findings we provide evidence that cuttlefish will accept facsimiles of substrates (in this case laminated photographs of gravel)  and that lighter colour clothing worn by technicians produced the fewest negative reactions. The difficulty of cleaning substrates is and often cited reason for not providing them.


Authors: Belinda M. Tonkins, Alexandra M. Tyers, and Gavan M. Cooke. 


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