One look at a vampire squid, and you’d think it was the product of a cheesy horror/sci-fi movie. Vampyroteuthis infernalis (meaning “vampire squid from hell”) is the sole living member in the Order Vampyromorphida, and shares characteristics of both octopuses (Order Octopoda) and squids (Order Teuthida).

Vampire Squid   © National Geographic

This species first appeared around 300 million years ago and has changed very little since then, making it a living fossil that may represent an ancestral line between octopuses and squids.
They live about a half a mile deep in the tropical and temperate oceans worldwide, and only grow to about 30 cm long, but their eyes are huge. In fact, they have the largest eye-to-body ratio of any animal alive today. They lack the feeding tentacles and ink-sacs that their squid cousins possess but they do have photophores that can emit clouds of bioluminescent particles, which create lights in the endless dark of the deep sea. These are different from chromatophores, the pigment-changing organs octopus use for camouflage, which the vampire squid possesses but cannot use due to a lack of specific muscles.

When scared, the Vampire Squid will fold its body nearly inside out, pointing its long fleshy spines (or cirri) outwards to ward off predators.

It had long been thought that the vampire squid was carnivorous, like all other cephalopods, although there was little evidence to support this.
Since the animal’s eight arms are webbed and lack suckers (except for a few at the end of each arm), the feeding method was a mystery. That is, until a pair of long sticky filaments extending from the mouth were discovered by researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. These filaments can be as long as eight times the vampire squid’s length, and are used to catch marine debris that is later sucked up into the animal’s beak.
They eat the dead bodies of crustaceans, moults, fecal pellets of zooplankton, parts of gelatinous organisms like the discarded mucus houses of larvaceans, fish scales, and other single celled marine organisms.
This makes the vampire squid the only non-predatory cephalopod alive today. Rather, it is more of a scavenger.

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