Space ships. I don’t think I have ever dived anywhere else where I have seen so many space ships – and not just during night dives but during the day as well. For me these highly evolved, highly intelligent, elephantine mollusks have always appeared extraterrestrial. The way in which they hover, speed backwards and perform a stunning display of electric flashes so utterly hypnotic that leaves you wondering what level of evolution they have achieved.
The Bon Soon Wreck, East of Eden, Richelieu Rock and of course the ‘Three Lovers’ (shown above) at Koh Bon; always together and always vying for one another’s attention. Reaching out one of their eight arms here and another one there, meanwhile emitting an auroral glow around their floating bodies. A marine biologist once warned me never to shine my flash light in the eyes of a passing space ship due to the real risk of permanently blinding it, and yet their pulsating electric ripples are best observed in the dark (although this does carry the risk of losing ones customers who always have a tendency to disappear during complete darkness).
Their vision is one of the most highly developed in the animal kingdom, and they perceive contrast rather than color, so their light display has a secondary purpose of allowing them to communicate with other spaceships. Why they have W-shaped pupils has yet to be explained, although it has been proposed that this is to allow them to see backward and forward at the same time. Perhaps their extraordinarily large brains may hold the key. However, they are clearly aware that any potential enemies are still an evolutionary stage or two behind as they possess and impressive array of chameleon skills allowing them to reflect the coloring of their environment as they travel over different shades of coral, rocks and sand, which leaves the reptilian master of disguise lagging behind; not only is this an effective disguise from predators and prey, but with the ability to change color in less than a second, it is the speediest transformer in the entire animal kingdom
Closer observation will actually reveal finely tuned buoyancy. Unlike their Octopi cousins, who scramble over the coral, they can regulate their depth by changing the liquid-to-gas ratio in their chambered cuttle-bone.
Italians like to eat space ships. Last month I dived with an Italian chef and as I made the ‘cuttlefish’ hand signal he replied with the ‘spaghetti’ symbol – consisting of a twist of the wrist and a greedy glint in the eye. After learning that some marine biologists believe that they learn by observation, I felt a protective urge to shield these culinary inclinations from the three spaceships in view. Indeed I have spent many a happy dive hovering face to face, with a hand positioned on my forehead slowly raising a finger. The spaceship humors my mimicking and has been known to raise an opposite arm. Hurrah! Communication with life from the blue planet!