The Caped Cephalopod

Source: MBARI

Found in the deep sea in tropical and temperate climate zones, vampire squids have quite the interesting background! Unlike other cephalopods, which typically live up to 2 years, vampire squids (like vampires to humans) live as long as 8 years!

Physical Appearance and Behavior

Growing as long as 6 inches, vampire squids get their names from their dark red body and eye coloration, as well as their cape-like, webbed structure. Despite common misconceptions, vampire squids do not suck the blood of their prey, in fact, they do not eat living beings at all! Unlike other squid species, vampire squids are very peaceful creatures, floating around in the dark, waiting for food to come to them! Their tentacles are connected by webbing, thus forming their vampire “cape”. The vampire squid also contains photophores at the tips of its tentacles (filaments), which emit bioluminescent, sticky mucus that distracts predators and allows the squid to escape dangerous situations. In addition, there are two small fins on the vampire squid’s mantle (outer covering of its body) that appear when the vampire squid matures. The vampire squid’s body is naturally dark, making it invisible in the dark depths of the ocean.

A “Snowy” Diet

Vampire squids are detrivores, meaning they only consume dead, organic matter. In the deep sea, vampire squids gather and ingest “marine snow”, a nickname for material from dead organisms. They use their filaments (on their tentacles) to gather marine snow, combine the particles with their mucus, and consume it.

Source: MBARI

The head of a vampire squid, surrounded by “marine snow”.

Deep Sea Adaptations

Along with using bioluminescent mucus to escape their predators in the pitch black environment of the deep sea, vampire squids also have the necessary adaptations to live with a deprivation of oxygen and light. To be able to survive without much oxygen, vampire squids have a very slow metabolism. Their bodies are also covered with photophores (bioluminescent), which can be turned on and off by the vampire squid.

Fun Facts

Scientific Name: Its scientific name, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, literally translates to “vampire squid from hell”!

Movement: Along with its movement from its small fins, the vampire squid sometimes flips its tentacle “cape” inside out, over its head, and then pushes it back to its normal position to swim forwards (similar to other cephalopods, just with webbing between its tentacles).

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