Vampire squid: curiosity and science

At the depths in which the Vampire Squid lives, the light is almost absent and the eyes of many predators are not accustomed, the infernal squid uses this condition to confuse them

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Vampire squid: curiosity and science

At the depths in which the Vampire Squid lives, the light is almost absent and the eyes of many predators are not accustomed, the infernal squid uses this condition to confuse them. The animal is a maximum of 30 cm long in total, of which 15 cm for the gelatinous body, varying in color between light red and black, depending on the position and lighting, the vampire squid is certainly not dangerous for the human beings.

A membrane, internally black, joins its eight tentacles, each equipped with rows of fleshy cirrus; only the distal part of the tentacles has suckers.
Despite having weak muscles, vampire squid maintain their agility and buoyancy through sophisticated statocysts and their ammonium-rich tissues closely match the density of the surrounding water.

Like many abyssal cephalopods, the vampire squid does not have an ink sac. If threatened, it instead emits a sticky cloud of bluish bioluminescent mucus from the tips of the tentacles, which can last nearly ten minutes and allows the vampire squid to disappear into the darkness even without straying too far.

At the less extreme depths of its vertical range, the light coming from above is comparable to the light of the sky at dusk and allows the sensitive eyes of predators to distinguish the silhouettes of other animals above.

To protect itself, the squid generates its own bluish light (bioluminescence) according to a strategy called backlighting. For their part, the large eyes of the vampire squid detect very faint lights. A pair of photoreceptors are placed on the top of the head, possibly to alert the animal to movement higher.

Captured animals survive in aquariums no more than two months. The artificial environment makes it difficult to observe non-defensive behavior. In nature, behavioral data are scarce and are based on occasional encounters especially with abyssal robots.

Vampire squid have been observed to be carried away by the deep ocean currents with their elongated veil filaments. If the filaments sense a contact or a vibration, the animal investigates the cause with quick acrobatic movements.

Vampire squid can reach proportionately remarkable speeds in seconds, but their jelly-like muscles do not allow for prolonged escapes. To avoid predators, vampire squids use a combination of innovative tactics, including bioluminescence, erratic movements, pineapple stance, emitting luminescent mucus.