Pharaoh cuttlefish

Class: Cephalopoda

Family: Sepiidae

Family Description:

Mantle robust, slightly flattened dorsoventrally. It can be broad or slender; oval, oblong or nearly circular in outline. The anterior of dorsal mantle margin projected forward, not fused with head. Fins narrow which located dorsolaterally on mantle, approximately equal to mantle length; posterior fin lobes free, not connected to each other. Head is robust and slightly narrower than mantle. Eyes are prominent, which covered by a transparent membrane and a conspicuous secondary fold on the eyelid. Mouth surrounded by 10 appendages (8 arms and 2 tentacles). The cuttlefish arms consist of 2 to 4 suckers in transverse rows. Tentacular clubs consists of four or more suckers in transverse rows and tentacles retractile into pockets on the ventrolateral sides of the head between arms III and IV. Internal calcareous cuttlebone was located dorsally in the mantle which underneath the skin and cuttlebone length usually equal to the mantle length. The cuttlebone shape are ranges from lanceolate to oval or diamond-shaped whereas dorsal side is calcareous plate and ventral side finely laminate. Buccal membrane present, with or without suckers; each radula tooth unicuspid (with a single projection).

Genus: Sepia Linnaeus, 1758

Species: Sepia pharaonis Ehrenberg, 1831

Species Description:

Mantle is oval shaped. Arm suckers tetraserial. Hectocotylus present on left ventral arm. Suckers in 2 dorsal and 2 ventral series displaced laterally, with gap between them. Club sucker-bearing surface flattened, with 8 suckers in transverse rows whereas suckers differ markedly in size with 5 or 6 median suckers enlarged (3 or 4 of these are greatly enlarged). Swimming keel of club terminates at proximal end of carpus. Dorsal and ventral protective membranes not joined at base of club. Cuttlebone outline oblong with bone bluntly rounded anteriorly and acute posteriorly. Dorsal surface of bone is creamy white and evenly convex with smooth texture. Anterior striae of cuttlebone are inverted U-shape with limbs of inner cone extend anteriorly to end of striated zone. Inner cone limbs are narrow anteriorly and broaden posteriorly with distinctive thick bulbous swelling. Outer cone is calcified with narrow anteriorly and broadens posteriorly. Dorsal mantle with series of elongate papillae along each side, adjacent to base of each fin, or covered with numerous small papillae. The color of mantle is pale brown or reddish purple while, head and arms with transverse zebra-stripe pattern. Dorsal-mantle has white blotches or spots and has a transverse zebra-stripe pattern. Fins with longitudinal white band at base, bordered by narrow band of ground-coloured pigment along each side.


Sepia torosa Ortmann, 1888; Sepia rouxii d Orbigny, 1839–1842; Sepia rouxi d Orbigny, 1841; Sepia formosana Berry, 1912; Crumenasepia hulliana Iredale, 1926; Crumenasepia ursulae Cotton, 1929; Sepia formosana Sasaki, 1929; Sepia tigris Sasaki, 1929.

Other Records(References):

Sepia pharaonis Ehrenberg, 1831- [Carpenter and Niem (1998): 748; Jereb and Roper (2005): 106-108]

Global Distribution:

Indian Ocean and western Pacific: including the Red Sea and Arabian Sea south to Zanzibar and Madagascar, Andaman Sea to South China Sea, East China Sea, Taiwan Province of China, Japan (Kyushu and possibly southern Honshu), eastern Indonesia and northern Australia.


Sepia pharaonis has been assessed as Data Deficient in the IUCN Red List as although it has a very wide geographic distribution. It is fished throughout its range but intensively in some regions such as off Yemen, Hong Kong and Thailand. In order to assess the impact of these fisheries it is paramount that the boundaries between the species within this species complex are known. Until taxonomic clarity is provided this species cannot be accurately assessed.