Vampire Squids: Main facts about these striking creatures

The vampire squids are also known by their  scientific name Vampyroteuthis infernalis,  and they are small cephalopod   mollusks.


They  usually  inhabit the depths of tropical waters around the world. Their dark tones are the main reason of their names, and the can also be named Vampire Squid from Hell. Thanks to their  characteristics they are really unique squids.

In spite of  being cephalopods ,  which are characterized by being invertebrate mollusks, the vampire squids have their own distinctive features. Their  habitats, alimentation habits and morphology, are quite different than those of most cephalopods .


As for the ancestors of this species, it can be said that the first historical reference to the vampire squids,  dates back to 1903. The discovery of this species is attributed to the German biologist Dr. Carl Chun when he caught a peculiar cephalopod with  a viscous and gelatinous consistency. It had red tones in its body , a white beak,  red eyes in large size,  two small fins in relation to its body and its tentacles joined by a purple membrane ,.

Dr. Carl caught this specimen, while he was preparing an exploratory journey  through the waters that comprise the Gulf of Guinea. Then, after this surprising discovery  and because of  its appearance, this biologist named it  Vampyroteuthis infernalis as the scientific term to refer to this peculiar species.  However, the vampire squid was described  at first, as an octopus,  but further studies verified that it was a squid. For this reason it is also known throughout history as vampire octopus.

The similar characteristics  between this specimen and others species of octopus, caused the confusion.  Moreover, this animal is  considered by the main researchers as a phylogenetic relic since the vampire squid  is the  only recognized survivor of  its order.

Now, the most recent contributions in relation to this species were obtained by the studies of  Hendrik Hoving and Bruce Robison, who in order to obtain precise and outstanding information;  carried out exhaustive recordings , in order to show the behavior of this species. These recordings lasted 23 hours each, and the total number of recordings was 170.  In turn, the studies were carried out with vehicles operated remotely in the depths of the sea, during the last 25 years.

.The  studies  allowed  to know,  the alimentation habits of these creatures, as well as the behavior they maintain in the depths of the sea.  The capability of the vampire squids to adapt to low- oxygen areas , was also discovered through these studies.  In this sense the researchers affirmed that «because of these unique adaptive skills,  the vampire squids  can inhabit permanently and successfully, in  zones of minimum oxygen, in which predators are scarce and food abounds «.


The vampire squids are characterized by having a particular morphology. The depths where they inhabit influence this apect, in big way. Following, we list their main morphologic  features:

 Size and color

The vampire squids measure about 15 centimeters in length , although  some species can reach up to 30 centimeters. Thus,  due to their  sizes  and the fact of  inhabiting in the depths of the seas,     they don´t  represent a risk for humans. Moreover, their sizes are insignificant compared to the giant squids.. Their gelatinous, and a little viscous bodies, are also a distinctive feature of this species..

The females of this species  can reach up to 40 cm in length , which make of them bigger than males.,

The length of the tentacles  of the vampire squids, usually is bigger than the length of the rest of their boies.

On the other hand, it is important to  know that in terms of the color of the vampire squids  , it can vary between dark black and some shades of red, this is  usually influenced by the illumination  in their habitats.  Another aspect in terms of color, is related to the chromatophores ( pigmented  organs  ) , which are not totally developed ,unlike other cephalopod species.

As a result  the vampire squids  do not have the ability to modify their color in an efficient way, as other animals of this type do, although this is not a big problem for the vampire squids, since in the depths in which they live colors are not recognized very well, and this aspect is not necessary for their survival.

As far as the life expectancy of the vampire squids, they live roughly six months, although  there are specimens which can reach up to two years.

Other extremities and main organs

These squids have eight limbs that are linked to their arms;  which in turn have thick spines, that are usually  thin and soft, in contrast with their weird appearance .  In this way, these extremities are covered by a layer of skin that joins them. It should be noted that only half of  their  extremities, specifically the one that is most distant from  their bodies, have syphons.

Regarding the eyes of the vampire squids, it is important to point out that they are translucent and crystalline, in turn they appear in red or blue tones, as in the case of the skin. The color of the Eyes may vary depending on the type of lighting. When they are exposed  to the sun light,  they have a red color and in normal state they can be perceived as blue.

On the other hand;  a curious fact of the eyes of this species of squid, is that they are considered as the largest  in terms of proportion,  within the animal kingdom;  and  they can measure 2.5 centimeters in diameter. This is a peculiar characteristic given the fact that This animal does not have a large size.

The adult individuals of vampire squid;  have two thin external ears, which are located collaterally around the mantle. In turn, these slightly visible organs,   are pieces of the mechanism that the vampire squid employs for swimming.. This is one of the reasons why some people say  they can fly in the water, since they employ  their small extremities to swim.

In the same order of ideas, the vampire squid has a robust beak that is part of its jaw, which is  usually light in color. In addition, inside its straps a pair of bags is contained where the tactile fibers remain hidden. These fibers are characterized by being similar to the tentacles of other squid species.

The muscles  of the vampire squids  are weak and  lack of  stability; but even with these conditions they can maintain a great ability to float due to their statocyst organs, which perform similar functions of balance, than those  found in the humans ears

According to the results of recent investigations,  the vampire squids are covered by small fibers, also called hairs, and also by  a complex and developed network of nerves. Thus , it can be said that these animals are sensitive to touch in an extreme way. These filaments are organs with a multisensory characteristic, which they employ to recognize elements of the environment due to the scarce illumination of the habitat.

Now, it is known that the most important limbs that the vampire squids have are their first pair of tentacles, these are defined under the name of retractable sensory filaments, which can reach up to one meter in length , when they are totally extended.

This first pair of tentacles  are fundamental in their survival, since they are known as the main tool used by the vampire squid to feed themselves and detect other creatures around them , due to the sense of touch very developed in this area of ​​their body.

When  they don´t use these important organs, they hide them in a bag or sac located in the membrane between their tentacles. Another reference that regarding these tentacles, is that they have similarity to those of other recognized species such as octopus.


, Among the characteristics of the vampire squids morphology, we find  that their bodies  are  completely covered with  glandular organs capable of generating light,  which are called photophores. These  organs look like  small spots of light. And they contain a shutter, color filters and reflectors. The effect  of bioluminescence is generated, from the compounds that are ingested when they are eating , and  the cells  that carry out this this process are called  photocytes

Moreover, the vampire squids  have a broad domain of  these organs; which the employ to  confuse and disorient  their predators, for a few seconds or even a longer period of several minutes . The vampire squids modulate  the magnitude of light by employing their photophores, which look like small white spots. The photophores  located at the end of their arms and at the base of their  fins, tend to be the more developed ones.

.Until recent times the specialist  thought,   that the white spots located on the head of the vampire squids,  were also photophores, but further studies determined that these spots  were  photoreceptors. These organs  allow them to generate vision and perceive the main stimulus that come from some source of light.

Defense Methods

It is known that other species of cephalopods, have an ink tank , which they use to defend themselves when  they perceive threats,  but  the vampire squids lack of this feature.  However,  they have the ability to expel  a kind of   bioluminescent mucus ,that has a thick and viscous consistency; when they face any kind of threat.

This mucus, which looks like as a bright layer, remains in the environment for at least 10 minutes, in order to disorient the predators that may be nearby, allowing the vampire squids to flee through the darkness without having to swim long distances. It should be noted that the squid only uses this technique,  if it is in a dangerous situation , since its body, from the metabolic aspect, doesn´t  have the capacity to produce this mucus so easily.

Because of the difficulty  to produce this mucus ;  the vampire squid  can also apply  another defense method . They tend to turn themselves over, showing their spikes and creating a kind of layer with their tentacles, that covers part of  their bodies. It should be noted that these fibers, in spite of being similar spines or thorns, are usually very sensitive and soft to the touch.

Let´s keep learning about them

Types of Vampire Squids

The vampire squid is an unique species. There are not sub-species of this creature.

 Habitat Of The Vampire Squids

These vampire squids  have the peculiarity of living in the deepest waters;  this is a marked difference in relation to other species of cephalopods. In relation to their evolution they have developed a capacity to live in aphotic   areas, where only 1% of the rays of sunlight arrive. Thus, photosynthetic processes are not generated at  these  environments.

The  aphotic area is  located between 200 meters deep and 2000 meters; and the vampire squids tend to be  located between 600 meters and 900 meters. The temperature of these areas, ranges between 0-6 ° C, although it depends on the main aspects of the type of water and its conditions.vampire squids. photic areas

This type of habitat is also known as the minimum oxygen zone (MOZ); where there is few presence of it. Therefore no algae are found and it is unlikely to find phytoplankton or zooplankton. However, this vampire squid lives in its best conditions within this area; being the only cephalopod that can live under these aspects, where the pressure is high and temperatures are very low.

However,  the vampire squids  adapt to these depths; because of their slow metabolism. Moreover, their blood transfers oxygen in excellent way,  thanks to hemocyanin, which is a protein that fulfills the same functions; than the  hemoglobin in humans.  At the same time, these squids have tissues with abundant ammonia,  that contribute to their nutritional needs at these depths of the sea.

Now, in relation to the above, it can be said that the vampire squids  inhabit in the deep  areas of the sea, where light is usually scarce; since they are able to generate light, which they apply to detect the possible figures of other creatures.

Distribution of the Vampire Squids

Although vampire squids can be found in all the oceanic waters of the world, the biggest part of their population is located at the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean,  which are considered as the native waters of this species.

Finally, the vampire squids don´t  tend carry out any type of migration journeys.

Alimentation Habits Of The Vampire Squids

According to several researches, about the alimentation of the vampire squids; these  creatures don´t  need to feed  themselves in large quantities or recurrently.  This statement is based on the fact that they  have a relatively low metabolism, so they fulfill their needs eating only twice a week.

Due to the deep areas where they live,  it has been difficult to determine the specifics specimens they feed on .  However, according to the characteristics of their habitats, it is assumed that hunting and food intake is difficult, so they probably eat  small species of invertebrate animals.

For this reason, approximately a hundred years ago a group of marine biologists,  went into the task of investigating more deeply what the diet of this peculiar animal consists of.  They captured a group of vampire squids, in order to have specific information..

In turn, several studies of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute provided information;  that vampire squids also include  on their diets, some organic wastes from their habitats, which consist mainly  in the dead bodies of other  creatures, even the excrement of other marine animals.

This theory joins the investigations exposed in the article of the magazine of the Academy of Sciences of the United Kingdom, “ Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences”  where the investigators affirm ,that the vampire squid is a pacific species, which doesn´t  kill to feed itself,. This way  they are unique species of cephalopods that don´t ingest alive species.

In the same order of ideas, it is important to emphasize that these  creatures do not apply complex strategies, when they are looking for food,  , since they only  need to extend the  limbs they have as arms and their  two retractable filaments, that can usually exceed the total body length up to eight times more.

Now, once the vampire squid catches its food, he removes some particles and proceeds to cover them with a sticky, viscous substance, to finally eat them.. For this reason this animal is considered among scientists as a detritivore, which means that it is fed on a  diet based on detritus, and despite its appearance is not a dynamic predator.

Watch this video for further information

Reproduction Of The Vampire Squids

The reproduction process  of the vampire squid begins, when the sperm of the male gets into to the female´s bag. It should be noted that in the case of this species, the female has the ability to keep the sperm from the male in her bag ,without fertilizing it for weeks.

Then the female lays  between five to ten thousand eggs, of  three or four millimeters in diameter. Once the babies vampire squids are born , the female take care of them for a period of 13 months and then she dies.

The calves   are characterized by being transparent and measure approximately 8 mm in length, and they are able to feed themselves, through  an internal bud  that help them get their nutrients.

Threats And Predators

In spite of living in the depths of the sea, remains of these creatures have been found  in the stomachs of deep-sea fish; such as sea lions and some cetaceans,  which are the natural predators of this specie.

On the other hand, due to the difficult access to their natural habitat , it has been  difficult to calculi the population of these creatures, which prevent to know if they pose a considerable threat. However,  the specialists and researchers consider,   that they do not present major risks that threaten their integrity.

The vampire squids belong to the small group of marine  species, that are nor directly affected by humans activities. However, it is quite possible that the variations of temperature in the oceans, caused by different types of contamination affect them somehow

Let´s  say so long offering this video for you, about the photic zones.


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