The vampire squid gets its name from its dark coloring. It does not, as the name would suggest, feed on blood. It is found worldwide, in temperate and tropical oceans in extreme depths, around 2,000 to 3,000 feet. It is the only surviving member of its order and can only grow to around 12 inches in length. According to Marine Bio, they can move at approximately two body lengths per second and propel themselves with a jet of water through the mantel.

The squid was originally discovered by Carl Chun, a German teuthologist, in 1903 as part of the Valdivia Expedition. Chun, inspired by the Challenger Expedition, wanted to prove that life existed below 550 meters, according to “The Valdivia Expedition, Carl Chun’s diving into the deep sea.”

Vampire Squid Appearance 

The vampire squid is a small cephalopod that can grow to around twelve inches in length. As is common among cephalopods, the female is larger than the male. The body varies in color, from completely jet black to pale red. The squid’s name comes, in part, from its dark color. The lighting conditions often affect its tones, as does the location. They do not have the ability to change their color at will, though. The squid has eight arms, each of which is connected by webbing. If one of these arms were to be removed, by a predator’s bite, for example, it could regenerate. They are lined with spines, known as cirri. Half of each arm is covered with suckers. 

Vampire squid illustration
Vampire squid illustration

The squid has round eyes that are usually red or blue, again depending on lighting and location. Adults have small fins that protrude from the mantel. They have white beak-shaped jaws and are covered in photophores. These are light-producing organs that can create a disorienting flashing light. They can change how bright, often, and numerous the flashes are. They are located at the tip-off of the arms and base of the fins. These squids also have photoreceptors on the tops of their heads. These are also known as simple eyes. They are composed of a lens without a retina. 

The squid uses the light as a form of defense as well as communication, according to Oceana. Males and females of the species do not come across one another very frequently, and therefore the lights might be used to attract a mate. 

Vampire Squid Habitat 

The squid is found in temperate and tropical oceans at extreme depths, around 2,000 to 3,000 feet. There is very little oxygen at these depths or light, and therefore the squid has to use its specialized metabolism to survive. At these depths, according to the Aquarium of the Pacific, the temperate is around 2-60 degrees Celsius and 35.6-42.8 degrees Fahrenheit. The animals use very little energy daily, something that’s critical due to the low-oxygen environment. 

Vampire Squid Diet 

The vampire squid feeds on detritus or marine snow that falls from the ocean’s upper layers down to 2,000-3,000 feet where the squid lives. Mostly, the squid floats through its environment and waits for its food to come to it, according to the Aquarium of the Pacific. The squid uses its retractile filaments to capture food. They only need to eat approximately two times a week. It does not have feeding tentacles that other cephalopods do.

Oral view of vampire squid
Oral view of vampire squid

Their flannels have sensory cells located in small hairs that allow the squid to detect their prey. The detritus it feeds on includes the remains of larvaceans, salps, and the zooplankton, as well as amphipods and isopods, according to Hannah Krakauer’s “Vampire squid from hell eats faeces to survive depths.”

Vampire Squid Reproduction 

Male squids pass a packet of sperm to the female, who accepts it. According to Oceana, female squids are capable of storing male sperm over long periods of time. This is something that is critical considering how rare the species is and is unknown in any other squid species. When the female is ready, she can use the sperm to reproduce, according to “Vampire squid reproductive strategy is unique among coleoid cephalopods.” Their gestation period is around 13 months. Unfortunately, not much else is known about the reproductive behavior of these animals. This is due in part to the fact that they are incredibly hard to study. Their deep habitats make long-term observations difficult. 

Threats to the Vampire Squid 

The vampire squid is not on any endangered or threatened species lists due to the depth at which the animals live. They are not fished nor do they pose any threat to human resources. 

They are sometimes found in the stomachs of larger fish, whales, and sea lions, but they have few natural predators due to the depth at which they live. When threatened, the squid inverts its arms over its body and makes itself appear larger, according to “Vampire Squid Turns “Inside Out.”’ The spines on the inside of its arms, which are harmless, are exposed. The glowing tips of its arms and around its fins also present a more deadly image. 

Unlike other squids, the vampire squid cannot produce ink when threatened. Their “pineapple posture,” as described above, and quick movements made with their arms are their main ways of deterring predators. 

Facts about the Vampire Squid 

  • Female squids are capable of storing male sperm over long periods of time. 
  • The vampire squid feeds on detritus or marine snow.
  • The squid is found in temperate and tropical oceans at extreme depths. 
  • The vampire squid is a small cephalopod that can only grow to around twelve inches in length. 
  • The vampire squid gets its name from its dark coloring. It does not drink blood. 
  • The squid was originally discovered in 1903. 
  • They have the largest eyes in comparison to their bodies of any animal in the world. 
  • The squid has round eyes that are usually red or blue.