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Hallowain't III: Vampire squid from hell

Updated Thursday 26th October 2017

Is there something truly demonic about the vampire squid from hell? No.

Vampire squid Creative commons image Icon Smithsonian Institution Libraries under Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0 license

As if being known as a vampire squid isn't enough, the latin name of the species, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, appends 'from hell' to the name. And, to be fair, as creatures go they don't look the most angelic. About the size of a rugby ball, with a flapping cloak and red-rimmed eyes, you'd not be thrilled to meet one on a blind date.

But they're not, of course, vampires. In fact, the vampire squid couldn't be any less like a vampire. Unlike all other cephalopods, it doesn't hunt living prey at all, but feasts instead on detrius.

Yes, detrius. We said they weren't vampiric; we didn't claim they were great house guests.

While we're pointing out they're not vampires, they're also not really squid, either. Vampire squid sit alone as their own order, sharing features with true squids and octopus.

Vampire squid have the largest eyes of any creature on earth (proportionate to their size), which makes sense when you figure where they live - at the lightless depths of the oceans. 600 to 900 metres beneath the surface. There's so little oxygen there - only about 3% by volume - that they don't share their homes with many other creatures. And hence, they survive by eating bits and pieces dropping from above their heads rather than sucking the blood of the living.

They have another nifty trick that helps them adapt to their environment. Rather than shooting out squid ink, it does something else to escape predators. The Aquarium of the Pacific explains:

The vampire squid does not ink.The tips of of its tentacles emit a cloud of bioluminescent sticky mucus that glows for up to 10 minutes, plenty of time for the squid to escape a predator.

Mmmm, glowing mucus. They might not be vampires, but they can still give you the creeps, it seems.

For more on the mysteries of the depths, check out our Oceans Explorer

Hallowain't is OpenLearn's annual celebration of things that don't go bump in the night. In the run up to Halloween each year, we're the people going "there's a rational explanation."

Hallowain't was originally part of OpenLearnLive.

 

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