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The Vampire Squid, Vampyroteuthis infernalis



Image: vamp-filament4f.jpg Credit: (c) 2011 MBARI

 

Vampire Squid are deep sea animals which live in both temperate and tropical waters around the world. They can be found in depths ranging from 600m to 1200m in the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. They also possess features commonly seen in both octopuses and squids. Because of this, marine biologists consider them to be unique and have placed them in a group of their own (Order Vampromorphida).

 

Vampire Squids are also relatively small, reaching lengths of up to 28cm, and their eyes are very large compared to their body size. In fact they have the largest eye to body ratio in the animal kingdom!

 




The Vampire Squid's pineapple posture. Drawing credit: Alexander Hahn, Marine Dimensions.


The species’ scientific name, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, literally translates as Vampire squid from hell. However, despite their ‘hellish’ appearance they are actually very docile animals. Researchers in Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute recently discovered that they feed on marine snow and small organisms. Marine snow is found in the deep ocean and consists of floating debris, mucus and waste from dead organisms. The web like membrane around the squid’s eight arms is used to catch the snow and other small organisms.

 

When threatened, the Vampire Squid will spread out its arms, almost completely covering its head and body. This is referred to as the “pineapple posture” as the spikes on the squid’s arms resemble the tropical fruit. The tips of the Vampire Squid's arms and fins are also luminescent, containing light-producing organs which flash to confuse predators. They even defend themselves by shooting mucus which glows in the dark! When the lights are turned off the animals are camouflaged in the dark waters of the deep sea.



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