10 Incredible Vampire Squid Facts

Written by Volia Nikaci
Published: June 20, 2022
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The vampire squid is not actually a vampire. Vampyroteuthis infernalis is the scientific name for this cephalopod. This actually translates to “Vampire squid from hell.” This species lives in tropical waters. The zoologist Carl Chun first discovered them in the late 1800s. Here are ten incredible vampire squid facts that will leave you awestruck!

1. It’s Rare to See a Squid Vampire in Person

A young Vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis) surprised the research crew as we started to ascend from Sur Ridge in December 2013. Like many deep-sea cephalopds, vampire squid lack ink sacks. Instead of ink for defense, a sticky cloud of bioluminescent mucus is expelled from the arm tips.
Vampire squids live at depths of 2,000 – 3,000 feet, which is so deep that there is no light at all.

Since these creatures live so deep within the water, around 2,000 to 3,000 ft, seeing one in person is an incredibly rare experience. Drones are often used to study vampire squids. As a result of the water pressure and the absence of light and oxygen, it is nearly impossible for anyone to explore the deep sea.

2. The Vampire Squid Is Not Technically A Squid

The vampire squid was initially thought to be an octopus because squids are difficult to study. In the 1900s, they were finally recognized as a type of squid. The vampire squid has 8 legs like other cephalopods, but what makes it different from a squid is that it can’t change colors or produce any kind of ink. This is why scientists have decided to separate the vampire squid into its own unique category.

3. Vampire Squids Have Been Around Since The Jurassic Period

To this day, vampire squids are almost identical to Vampyromorphs fossils that date back over 200 million years. This means vampire squids are basically living fossils! The deep water conditions they live in have remained consistent all these years, which has kept their anatomy mostly the same. Other members of the family Vampyromorphida have been wiped out. This leaves vampire squids as the only living member of this order to this day.

4. Vampire Squids Have Incredibly Large Eyes

These squids have some of the largest eyes of any animal in the animal kingdom, relative to their size. The vampire squid’s eyes are located on the sides of its head and appear either red or blue depending on the light it reflects. In fact, vampire squids are often said to have eyes similar to those of a dog.

5. Vampire Squids Have “Capes”

Using a cape is another way that vampire squids protect themselves, which may contribute to their unique name. This means they can turn themselves inside out by flipping their tentacles over their neck and head while cloaking themselves. Since the water is so incredibly dark, this makes it extremely hard for predators to see them. The “pineapple posture” refers to how the spikes under the tentacles of the vampire squid are all that are visible when the creature is cloaked.

6. The Lifespan Of A Vampire Squid Is Uncertain

According to a dissertation study known as Assessing The Lifespans of Coldwater Octopods, “The vampire squid’s lifespan is unknown, but its unique reproductive strategy may take several months to complete, implying a significantly longer lifespan than that of neritic octopods.”

Scientists aren’t too sure how long vampire squids can live. However, they believe that they live up to 8 years. While other squids and octopuses die after one reproductive cycle, vampire squids can undergo multiple reproductive cycles throughout their lives. Additionally, most octopuses and squids only live about 1-2 years, making the vampire squid an incredibly unique animal.

7. Vampire Squids Can Produce Light

Vampire squids have light-producing organs called photophores that cover their bodies. This is how the vampire squid creates bioluminescent mucus. This mucus protects them from predators. Using mucus, they create a glow-in-the-dark effect from the tips of their tentacles. As the vampire squid uses this tactic, the lights will have the predator dazed and confused as the vampire squid makes its escape. As vampire squids know, even though light can scare away a predator, it can also attract larger, more deadly predators. They tend to use this ability only at the most dangerous times.

8. Vampire Squids Are Very Good Swimmers

In the past, scientists thought vampire squids were slow swimmers, but now they know otherwise! These creatures are actually crafty swimmers and can propel themselves with large bursts of energy. Although they can swim fast, the only downside is they cannot keep up this pace for very long. Also, vampire squids have a structure called a statocyst, which enables them to be agile and balanced. They move at a speed of two body lengths per second.

9. Vampire Squids Are Also Known As Detritivores

A young Vampire squid swimming among white particles in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
In contrast to most cephalopods, the vampire squid eats scraps.

A detritivore is an animal that feeds on dead and decomposing matter. Vampire squids are the only cephalopods incapable of catching live prey and eating it. In its place, they eat “marine snow.” Marine snow is dead organic material such as plants or animals that make its way to the bottom of the ocean, resembling falling snowflakes. As the marine snow drifts to the bottom, the vampire squid will reach out its filaments to collect and eat whatever makes its way towards it.

10. Vampire Squids Can Live With A Very Small Amount Of Oxygen

Vampire squids, as mentioned earlier, adapt to extremely hostile environments. Since they live so deep within the ocean, there is only a very small amount of oxygen dissolved in the water, known as the oxygen minimum zone. This cephalopod conserves oxygen by relying on copper-based blood, which helps it hold on to oxygen from the water passing over its gills. This works in favor of the vampire squid as they are said to have a very low metabolism. This is why the vampire squid does not hunt for their food and instead picks up on anything that drifts below the bottom. The energy they conserve is used to evade and run from predators, which can take a toll on their tiny and delicate bodies.

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About the Author

Volia Nikaci is a copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in SEO content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College.

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