A Vampire of a Squid
by Julie Cremer
It gives me great pleasure to share with you one of my favorite marine creatures of all time: The vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis). Believe it or not, this animal is neither a squid or an octopus, it is something in-between! They look cool, they have unique behaviors AND they would make an awesome lead character in a science-fiction movie (my favorite movie genre). There is a lot that we still don’t know about these creatures. However, that is slowly changing thanks to new marine technology and deep sea exploration.
The scientific name of the vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis) basically translates to “vampire squid from Hell” (a pretty intimidating name)! They possess physical and behavioral characteristics from decapodiformes (squid and cuttlefish) and octopodiformes (octupi) but are the only known members of the Order Vampyromorphida. These little devils grow to only 28 centimeters with their mantle (the head portion of their body) measuring 12.1 cm (Robinson et al. 2003). It is the females, and not the males, who are the head-honcho when it comes to size. This form of sexual dimorphism, where the gender of a species is larger than the other, is frequently seen in species of true squid.
Just like their octupi friends, Vampire squid have eight long arms; I can only imagine how much stuff I would get done in a day if I had eight arms! In addition to those eight arms, they have two “filaments” that can reach past the other arms as well as go back into two pockets that are hidden within the webbing between their appendages; a real life Inspector Gadget. These two filaments were thought to be arms at one point. However, they are very different in structure and are believed to be a unique trait that this awesome animal possesses. Another special trait of the Vampire squid is the change their fins undergo as they grow and mature. Once the fins located on the sides of its head, or mantles, grow to 15-25 mm in length, a second pair grows in front of the first pair. When pair number two grows to their full length, pair number one shrinks and gets reabsorbed back into the body of the squid. This crazy change allows the vampire squid to change from swimming with jet propulsion to swimming with their fins.
Vampire squid can be found at a depth between 600-1,200 meters in both tropical and intermediate regions of the world’s seas. They live in a cold, dark world where very little light penetrates and there is no sense of up or down, left or right. Within this vast, endless space, food can be very hard to find. Therefore, Vampire squid and other deep sea creatures have developed special traits and adaptations for hunting and catching food. Copepods, prawns and cnidarians have been reported to be the main food of choice for the Vampire squid. These deep sea carnivores hunt for their food using organs that produce light and are sensitive to touch located on the tips of their arms. The light-producing organs attract prey while the sensory organs allow the squid to reach out and catch its food as it swims in a circle.
I think it would be awesome to be a Vampire squid. They live life at a much slower pace than the average adult human. They simply float along in the ocean consuming a low-calorie diet of zooplankton. We live in a society where everything is fast-paced and full of stress. Perhaps we should take a page out of the Vampire squid’s book and learn to navigate life in the passing lane and not the fast lane. Even though this animal may look all tooth and tentacle, it is really all squish and float.
1.Citation: “Vampire Squid, Vampyroteuthis infernalis ~ MarineBio.org.” MarineBio Conservation Society. Web. Accessed Monday, May 11, 2015. <http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=179>. Last update: 1/14/2013 2:22:00 PM ~ Contributor(s): Marine Bio
2. Robinson BH. Reisenbichler KR. Hunt JC. Haddock SH. “Light production by the arm tips of the deep-sea cephalopod Vampyroteuthis infernalis. Biological Bulletin 2003. 205 (2): 102-9.