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Squids, octopuses and cuttlefish are on the rise

While other areas of the ocean are languishing, populations of cephalopods have risen thanks to their adaptability.


Giant Australian cuttlefish.

Scott Portelli, Wildlife Photographer, @scott.portelli

The world's coral reefs may be in critical condition, but some tentacled denizens of the deep are thriving, according to a new study. Octopus, squid and cuttlefish populations have been steadily on the rise over the last 60 years.

A team of researchers led by Zoë Doubleday of the University of Adelaide were able to gauge the rate of population growth by looking at fishing. Catch rates of cephalopods between 1953 and 2013 showed that the animals are on the rise all over the world.

The team attributes this at least partially to a set of traits shared by cephalopods: they grow fast, have short lifespans and can adjust their behaviour in response to a changing environment. This makes them highly adaptable. However, there may be other factors, too. Finding out what these are is the next step in the research.

"Cephalopods are voracious and adaptable predators and increased predation by cephalopods could impact many prey species, including commercially valuable fish and invertebrates," the team wrote. "Conversely, increases in cephalopod populations could benefit marine predators which are reliant on them for food, as well as human communities reliant on them as a fisheries resource."