Cephalopods, a class which inludes cuttlefish, octopus, squid, and nautilus, are among Earth’s most intelligent creatures, yet they look like they belong on another planet (making them endlessly fascinating). However there’s another kind of cephalopod that’s neither squid nor octopus but is in an order by itself.
More closely related to octopus than to squid (and definitely not related to vampires at all), Vampyroteuthis infernalis (literally meaning “vampire squid from Hell”) is the sole surviving species of its order (just like the tuatara). With a name like “vampire squid from Hell”, we might expect it to be ridiculously scary and dangerous, but with a non-aggressive, passive attitude and length of only about 30 cm (1 foot) fully grown, in reality it’s not a danger to any living animal. V. infernalis lives off the dead remains of other sea creatures. Most of these animals live in relatively shallow depths: when they die or are eaten, their particulate matter (marine ‘snow’) sinks down to the “oxygen minimum zone” at depths between 600-1200 meters (2,000-4,000 feet) where the vampire squid resides. In addition to its eight arms, it has two sticky retractile filaments that collect bits of food. Essentially, V. infernalis are scavengers of the ocean, a cleanup crew of the ocean’s dead.
The vampire squid is also food for marine predators. Most octopuses spray a cloud of ink at an attacker, but the vampire lives in such deep and dark waters that a cloud of ink is useless. Instead, it has myriad light-producing organs on its skin called photophores that put on a light show to disorient would-be diners.
Species: V. infernalis
Binomial name: Vampyroteuthis infernalis
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“The Vampire Squid From Hell” (4:33)