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Vampire Squid – Unique deep-sea cephalopod

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Description
    The vampire squid, known also as Vampyroteuthis infernalis which means “vampire squid of Hell”, appears like something that popped out of a terrifying science fiction film. However, despite its monstrous name, it is a small deep-sea creature that reaches just roughly 6 inches in length.

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    The vampire squid represents a prehistoric species and is a phylogenic relict, signifying that is the single member that survived from their own order Vampyromorphida. The species, which is technically neither an octopus nor a squid, but a cephalopod, had been rather unknown since it first came along approximately 300 million years ago, in the Carboniferous period, even before the existence of dinosaurs, says National Geographic.  As a matter of fact, due to its appearance it was initially confused and distinguished as an octopus by scientists in 1903.
Recent studies suggest a closer relationship between Vampire Squid and the giant prehistoric Tusoteuthis - a genus of Cretaceous cephalopod molluscs.
    This interesting cephalopod possesses enormous fins at the end of its body and they look like ears. These fins are used for the purpose of propulsion because this cephalopod really flies throughout the water by fluttering these fins. Like other squids, it has the ability to utilize jet propulsion to travel by ejecting water through an elaborated siphon jet placed beneath its mantle. The vampire squid has an extremely gelatinous shape and consistence, looking like a jellyfish rather than the ordinary squid. Furthermore, it has the ability to swim amazingly fast in spite of being a gelatinous creature, achieving speeds bigger than 2 body lengths per second.
Moreover, it also possesses the biggest eyes of any animal when it comes to its body’s proportion. Although it is comparatively tiny, reaching a length of just approximately 6 inches, it possesses some ball-shaped eyes that got the size of those of a big dog. These wide eyes can be colored in red or blue in concordance with the light. The vampire squid has 8 arms linked together with a webbing skin, which gives it the looks of an octopus rather than a squid’s. When it feels threatened, the vampire squid can pull its arms up over itself and in this way create a protective web that shields its body. The squid has every arm bordered with one row of suction cups and rows of mild, fleshy spines better known as cirri.

Vampire Squid,deep-sea creature,cephalopod,prehistoric animals,photophores

    The vampire squid’s peculiar name comes from these specific spines, from the cape-like webbing and also from the red eyes it has. Inside the webbed arms of the vampire squid is placed a set of two retractable sensory filaments, which look like the pair of long tentacles located on other squid species. As well, inside the webbing are placed two strong beak-like jaws, which are quite white like a tusk and they have sufficient power to smash the shells of crustaceans.

    The vampire squid’s color varies from jet black to pale red.  The body of vampire squid is concealed with organs that produce light, known as photophores, which provides this cephalopod the special skill to turn itself on or off whenever it wants through a chemical process named bioluminescence. When the squid has its photophores turned off, it is entirely invisible in the dark waters that it inhabits. The vampire squid has total control over these photophores, it has the capacity to adjust the size and intensity of these light organs, and direct toward itself prey. The photophores located at the tips of its arms and at the base of its pair of fins are bigger and more intricate. However, the vampire squid is different from other squid because it doesn’t have the ability to modify its color, an ability which would have been ineffective in the dark habitats where it is found. The vampire squid’s main method of defense is most likely its light show as it doesn’t have the ink sack that is found in other squid species. Nonetheless, it has the ability to expel a dense cloud of shining, bioluminescent mucus from the ends of its arms whenever it feels threatened.
    This cephalopod has one of the most unique traits because it appears like it’s flying through the water. This particular cephalopod has these kinds of movements because of the way it is flapping its fins in order to propel around. Moreover, the vampire squid possess the ability to slow down their metabolism to an extremely low value and due to this they manage to inhabit really cold waters.



Habitat
    It can be found in the meso - and bathypelagic depths all over the tropical and temperate oceans of the world where the light isn’t diffused mostly at all.  The vampire squid is spread vertically from depths of 300 to 3000m, though most vampire squids are found in depths of 1,500-2,500m. According to some studies elaborated at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California, the vampire squid is limited to the oxygen minimum layer in this water location at an intermediate depth of 690m and oxygen that reaches 0.22 ml/l. This squid’s north-south dispersion is found between the latitudes of 40th degree north and south where the water reaches a temperature between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius, as in 35 and 43 degrees Fahrenheit.



Diet
    The vampire squid is a carnivore cephalopod, which signifies that it consumes the flesh of other organisms. As far as is known, the vampire squid’s diet includes copepods, cnidarians, prawns and other small invertebrates but most of the time it consumes "marine snow". (particles of dead animals, microorganisms, etc). When the vampire squid is searching for sources for food, it utilizes sensory filaments to localize its prey throughout the water. Furthermore, the squid uses its photophores placed on the end of each of its arms to give a visual aspect like there are many small preys. Afterwards, the vampire squid will move around in a circle throughout the water until it grabs something to eat. Due to the fact that it has arms which can stretch twice the length of its body, the vampire squid manages to catch really fast some prey. Moreover, the vampire squid doesn’t eat a lot because of its very low metabolism rate. Even though it isn’t a sure fact, it is thought that this particular squid only needs to feed a couple of times per week, which is an essential adaption to its survival since food can be really difficult to find at these extreme levels of depth.



Breeding
    As far as is known, during the reproduction the vampire squid males deposit packets of sperm into the sac of the female. She will lay fewer eggs than other species and they are small, and opaque, with a size of approximately 8 millimeters in length. However, the females may store the spermatophores for long periods of time before they will use them to fertilize the eggs. The female will remain near the region of these deposited eggs until they are prepared to hatch. This can last for approximately 13 moths, though. When the eggs will hatch, the young hatchlings will drift slowly with the water and they tend to live deeper than the adults.
However, like most cephalopods, the female is thought to die soon after their hatchlings are born. The young hatchlings don’t require food for the first couples of weeks of their life, but instead they’ll consume internally stored yolk from which they manage to receive some nutritional value. That’s why their development is thought to be slow due to the absence of nutrients at such extreme depths.



Interesting facts
•    The vampire squid appears like is flying through the water, performing some kinds of flapping movements with its fins in order to propel around.
•    A lot of people are concerned and want to protect the vampire squid because of its unique and interesting design.
•    The vampire squid possesses an outstanding respiration system, it has an oligoerobic system, where “oligo” signifies “a few” and “aerobic” stands for oxygen. The vampire squid has an enhanced ability to extract oxygen from the water.
•    The vampire squid has also some predators as its beaks have been discovered in the stomachs of big deep swimming fish, seals, pinnipeds, and whales.
•    When the vampire is jeopardized by any predators, it will then turn on its light organs known as photophores and after that it will reduce their size in order to deceive the predator as though their meal is gone. It also has the ability to eject glowing particles composed of bacteria in the water, whenever it touches an animal, to confuse the predator.
•    The last Pokémon video game series presents the Pokémon “Malamar” that has been created based on the vampire squid specie.
•    It has a pair of long slender filaments that come up between the first and second pair of arms. This filament has a long array and sticky short "hairs" which collect particles and marine "snow" (the marine snow consists of remains from life processes up in the surface layers, the bodies of dead animals, dead phytoplankton cells) once it is collected a good portion it pools the filament in using its arms to scrape the food into a cavity formed by its web so he can ingest it.

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Sources:
http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/vampire-squid.html
http://www.squid-world.com/vampire-squid/
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Vampyroteuthis_infernalis/
http://creationwiki.org/Vampire_squid
http://www.tonmo.com/community/pages/vampyroteuthis-infernalis/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampire_squid

Pictures
http://www.cultnoise.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/vampire.squid_.image_.1.jpg (2)
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-g4_a9YNAOlM/UJFe72Kk8FI/AAAAAAAAC2M/5BM4oQSq_8g/s1600/Vampyroteuthis_infernalis.jpg (1)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4U0vG2bxy0 (3,4,5)

Published by Claudia Barbu

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