All photos of the cuttlefish of
Sentosa are by Brenna Lorenz.
South of the city
of Singapore is an island called Sentosa. Sentosa has been converted into
a tourist haven, and you can reach it by cable car. The most interesting
attraction there, for us, was the aquarium.
live there in a huge floor-to-ceiling tank. When we first approached them,
they were all lined up, hovering, facing us, watching the tourists. Some
of them lurked back in the rocks, others were closer to the front of the
tank, but all of them were facing the same direction. Except for the undulations
of their fins and the languid posturing of their tentacles, they were motionless.
Their bodies rippled with changing color patterns.
We all stood
and stared at them, and they stood and stared back at us. We found the
positioning of their tentacles fascinating. It looked so purposeful. We
speculated as to whether they were communicating among themselves with
the color changes and the tentacle positions.
One of us suggested that we try talking to them using our fingers as tentacles.
Each of us came close to the glass, put our fingers in front of our faces,
and arranged our fingers in gestures similar to theirs.
came forward out of the crowd to meet each of us. Mike had a cuttlefish.
I had a cuttlefish. Megaera had a cuttlefish. And Malachi, who is the smallest
of us, had a small cuttlefish. We gestured at them and they gestured at
us. "What's he saying? What's he saying?" Malachi kept asking. Malachi's
cuttlefish didn't do much gesturing. It just stared at Malachi, and we
had the impression that it was another child, staring like a toddler with
its mouth hanging open.
saw what we were doing, and joined us. Another cuttlefish came forward
to meet her. After a moment, she darted all her fingers at it suddenly,
and it jumped back. It slowly came forward to face her again. Then it shot
its syphon out at her. She squealed and leapt back.
then shot its syphon out at Mike a few times. Mike answered by flicking
his fingers at the cuttlefish. Neither of them jumped.
We finally had
to leave because the power went out.
We wonder if anyone else has tried talking to the cuttlefish of Sentosa,
or any other cuttlefish. Is there a way to decode their language, or teach
them some code of ours?
predacious carnivorous cephalopods related to squid and octopus. Cephalopods
are a class of mollusks, a phylum that also includes snails, chitons, clams
and slugs. The ammonites are an extinct group of cephalopods, and nautiloids
are almost extinct. We later met some nautiloids in a tank in an aquarium
in Yokohama, but they showed not a glimmer of intelligence.