The vampire squid is a small, deep-sea cephalopod found throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world.
Scientific name: Vampyroteuthis
Did you know: The vampire squid can reach a maximum total length around 30 cm (0.98 ft).
History Of Vampire Squid
The vampire squid, known to scientists as Vampyroteuthis infernal, looks like something that swam out of a late-night science fiction movie. But in spite of its monstrous name, its is a small creature, growing to only about six inched in length. The vampire squid is an ancient species and is a phylogenic relict, meaning that is is the only surviving member of the order Vampyromorphida. It is a unique member of the cephalopod family in that it shares similarities with both squid and octopuses. In fact, it was originally and mistakenly identified as an octopus by researchers in 1903
Development of the fins in the vampire is unique among cephalopods. One pair is present at hatching and is eventually resorbed and replaced by a more anterior pair as development proceeds. At one stage in development, therefore, the vampire has two pairs of fins. The first pair to develop is the homolog of the fins of other cephalopods (Young and Vecchione, 1996). The unusual fin ontogeny is partially responsible for the early description of 3 families and many species where only one species actually exists. Except for the fans, the young vampire squid (ca 10 mm ML) have an appearance very similar to that of the adult.
Eggs and Hatchlings
Vampires lack nidamental glands and have rather small oviducal glands. As a result, there is little likelihood that they produce large egg masses. Off California, small vampire squid occupies greater depths than do the larger individuals (Roper and Young, 1975) suggesting that spawning occurs in very deep water.
Vampire squid has a gelatinous body colored jet black to pale reddish, depending on location and light conditions. It has eight arms that are connected by webbing and each is lined with rows of fleshy cirri (spine-like projections). The distal portion of each arm has suckers. The eyes are large and globular and colored red or blue depending on the lighting. Mature adults have a pair of small fins projecting from sides of body furthest from eyes. Beaks, located in the center of the circle of arms, are white. Two pouches containing the tactile filaments are concealed within the webbing between the first and second pairs of arms. These filaments can be extended up to at least twice whole body length. The body surface is covered in poorly developed photophores (light producing organs). The two white spots on their heads are photoreceptors.
World Range & Habitat
Vampire squid are found in the temperate and tropical regions of the ocean. They occupy me so- to a bathypelagic depth external link where very little light penetrates between 300-3,000external link m and are typically found between 600-1,200external link m. Their north-south distribution is localized between the 40°N-S latitudes where the water is the 2-6°Cexternal link. Studies conducted at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute external link in California revealed that Vampyroteuthis infernal is confined to the oxygen minimum layer in the Monterey Buy external link at depths between 600-900external link m and oxygen levels of around 0.4 ml/l.
One of a unique behavior of the Vampire Squid is that they seem to be flying through the water. Such movements are the result of how they flap their fins to move around. They have the ability to slow down their metabolism to a very low rate. This is how they are able to live in the very cold waters.
It doesn’t have ink to shoot out when it feels it is being threatened. Instead, this type of squid offers a type of mucus that shoots out. The mucus is sticky and it can continue to come out for up to ten minutes. It allows the squid to hide from predators as they aren’t very fast swimmers.
To survive in the OML (oxygen minimum layer) of the deep ocean, the vampire squid has a very slow metabolism that causes it to need the little oxygen to survive. Its method of feeding uses very little energy and it mostly just drifts instead of actively swimming.
The body of a vampire squid contains statoliths (from the Greek for balancing stones), that keep it neutrally buoyant. This squid has weak muscles and moves using a pair of fins, but when in danger can swim fast by using jet propulsion.
The Vampire Squid has a very unusual food chain. Vampire Squids do eat feces floating around in the dark ocean. They also eat dead fish. So, Vampire Squids do not eat anything alive. Also the Vampire Squid has very powerful jaws to eat the dead fish. When the squid eats it turns itself completely inside out to eat whatever it is eating. When the Vampire Squid eats it will turn itself completely inside out.
Because small vampire squids occupy deeper water than larger squids, spawning probably occurs in very deep water. It is most likely that males transfer spermatophores to the female from their funnel. The female vampire squid is larger than the male and discharges the fertilized eggs directly into the water. Mature eggs are fairly large at 3-4mm in diameter and are found free-floating in small masses in deep water.
Interesting Vampire squid Facts
- Vampire squid can reach 12 inches in length.
- The vampire squid is black or reddish colored.
- Vampire squid has 8 webbed arms. Each arm is equipped with spines called cirri arranged in two rows. The bottom half of the arms is covered with suckers.
- Vampire squids have large eyes largest in the animal kingdom compared to the body size. Depending on the light, eyes look like they are red or blue colored.
- Vampire squids are named that way because of the black, webbed skin shaped like a vampire cape and red eyes.
- Vampire squids have white, beak-like jaws. Their diet consists of copepods, cnidarians, and other small invertebrates. They eat the only couple of times per week.
- Young vampire squids move by ejecting a large amount of water from a siphon the organ located inside the mantle. This type of movement is called jet propulsion.
- Adult vampire squids use the air of small fins located on the lateral sides of the mantle to move. They look like they fly through the water when they start flapping the fins. Vampire squids can reach the speed of two body lengths per second.
- The almost entire body of vampire squid is covered with light-producing organs called photophores. Vampire squid produces light to attract the prey and to distract predators.
- Vampire squids are able to invert their skin and expose their spines when they are threatened.
- Unlike other types of squids, vampire squids cannot change the color of the body and they don’t release ink when they need to escape from the predators. Instead of the ink, vampire squids eject sticky, glowing mucus which confuses predators equally good as ink.
- Main predators of vampire squids are large fish, whales, and sea lions.
- Vampire squids have internal fertilization. Male ejects sperm cells into the female’s sac. Female releases eggs and takes care of them until they hatch. Incubation period lasts 13 months.
- Female doesn’t eat during incubation period and she dies out of exhaustion as soon as eggs hatch. Young vampire squids don’t have to eat for the first few weeks of their life because they are born with internal reserves of energy (type of yolk). Young animals undergo several morphological transformations before they attain adult appearance.
- Lifespan of a vampire squid is unknown.