03 June 2005

Too Wierd to Be Real... Vampyroteuthis infernalis - the Vampire Squid from Hell

Vampyroteuthis infernalis literally translates into the phrase "vampire squid from hell". It is the only known member of the Order Vampyromorphida, the seventh order in the Class Cephalopoda. Technical terms aside, the vampire squid appears like a creature that swam out of a scary science fiction movie. It features black chromatophores interspersed with reddish-brown chromatophores.

The vampire squid doesn't have an ink sac but its arms are covered with sharp tooth-like spikes hence the name "vampire squid". This odd member of the squid family has large fins at the top of its body that almost look like a set of large ears. Add to that the fact that it has the blue eyes and that its eyes are proportionally the largest (eye to body ratio) of any animal and it qualifies as both wierd and real!

The vampire squid's body is gelatinous like that of a jellyfish. It's skin is covered with light-producing organs called photophores that enable the squid to switch its lights on or off at will. Its photophores, large circular organs found on the posterior end of each fin and distributed on the mantle, funnel, head, and aboral surface, produce luminescent clouds of glowing particles that emit light for approximately 2-9 minutes. When its lights are off, the squid is totally invisible in the dark waters it calls home... an ocean depth of 3000 feet!

One pair of the vampire squid's arms act as retractile filaments that can extend two times the length of the squid. It is believed that the vampire squid uses these arms to capture and hold its prey. When feeling danger, the squid draws its arms over itself and forms a web to protect its soft body.

The vampire squid can swim extremely fast for a jellylike animal. Reaching a speed of 2 body lengths per second, it can accelerate to this speed in just 5 seconds. If danger is present, the squid can make several quick turns to escape its enemies. The vampire squid is found throughout the world in most tropical and temperate regions.

Vampire squid have been seen from submersibles hanging mid water using the long filaments dangling from their bodies. Experts believe this is an indication that they may sense vibrations in the water. Since it lives so very deep under the sea, the vampire squid is not a creature that scuba divers will encounter. Nonetheless, this fascinating creature deserves its place on the 'too wierd to be real creature' list!

To see just what this unusual squid looks like, visit: http://marinebio.org

Source: www.divenews.com


Post a Comment

<< Home