Creature Feature: 10/8/2013 Revealed

Picture: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

It’s October, the perfect time to highlight some unusual underwater creatures that might make great Halloween costume ideas! Let us start with the vampire squid, Vampyroteuthis infernali. This bizarre-looking creature’s scientific name can be translated to “vampire squid from hell.” Originally it was described as an octopus, having eight arms, by Carl Chun and German teuthologist (one who studies cephalopods) in 1903. More recent studies found that there are actually two small arms located under the web, making them more similar to squid.

This small creature ranges in color from a pale red to black depending on the light and has webbing connecting its arms. Depending on the light, the eyes will appear red or blue. They got their name due to their cloak-like webbing, red eyes, dark color, and rows of tooth-like barbs lining each arm.

The Vampire Squid lives in a low-oxygen environment, a part of the ocean known as the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ). For more information about OMZ check out these sites:

Microbial oceanography of anoxic oxygen minimum zones

Oxygen Minimum Zone team 

This deep sea cephalopod (living in depths up to 3000ft or more) has unique adaptations to cope in the lack of oxygen. The blood has a unique protein (haemocyanins) that allows binding and transportation of oxygen more efficiently than hemoglobin, the protein humans have. Hemocyanin actually makes their blood blue! Gills covering a large surface area also help to transport oxygen through the body. Like with most deep sea animals, bioluminescence, or the ability of living things to make light, is one of the vampire squid’s adaptations. Rather than using an ink sac like surface-dwelling cephalopods, they instead release bioluminescent mucus through the tips of their arms when threatened. This distracts potential predators, and the squid can make a quick getaway.

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