Vampire Squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis)
Taxonomy: The Vampyroteuthis infernalis, literally translates to “vampire squid from hell” was first described in 1903 and was thought to be an octopus with eight arms. Subsequent sightings of it showed two additional arms were discovered tucking into pockets. It is currently, the only animal in the order Vampyromorphida, an order “in between” octopus and squid, mainly due to the addition of sensory filaments believed to be used for finding food in the deep sea.
Characteristics: V. infernalis is most commonly known for its jet-black skin, the “cape” webbed skin between the arms and eyes that appear blood red at times. It has excellent predator avoidance behavior, including the ability to invert itself, exposing suckers and cirri, making it look as though it is covered in spines. V. infernalis also has light organs on the tip of each arm and at the base of its fins. The animal will begin to glow and wiggle about while also expelling mucus containing “thousands of glowing spheres of blue bioluminescent light.” While this mucus is being expelled, the vampire squid escapes.
Size: Average size for V. infernalis is between 25 – 30 cm (9-12 inches). For its size, the vampire squid has the largest eyes of any animal in the world; approximately the size of a wolf or full-grown dog.
Distribution and habitat: V. infernalis lives in the oxygen minimum layer (600-800 m depth) because it is highly effective at removing oxygen from the water due to a pigment that easily binds oxygen (hemocyanin). It also has a very low metabolic rate and high gill surface areas. Specimens have been collected from tropical and subtopical waters worldwide.