Looking to learn about an amazing animal? You're in the right place. Here, we'll tell you all about the amazing and strange vampire squid!
36 Vampire Squid Facts
It lives in the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean. It has spikes and tentacles that are older than the dinosaurs. Its scientific name literally translates to “vampire squid from hell.”
Would you believe us, however, if we said that vampire squid was actually pretty chill?
Despite their name, the vampire squid isn't fearsome underwater predators. They feed on plankton, mind their own business, and are in possession of some cool features that scientists love studying. They're a great example of why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.
Do you want to learn more about the vampire squid? Are you ready to have an open mind about these deep-sea creatures? Here are 36 vampire squid facts!
1. What does the vampire squid look like?
The vampire squid looks a little bit like a squid and a little bit like an octopus. It has a soft, jelly-like body that moves through the water with the help of eight tentacles; the tentacles end in filaments that are used for feeding. The skin between the tentacles is webbed, giving it a “caped” appearance.
The vampire squid can range in color from a soft pink to a pitch black. Its eyes are either blue or red depending on the lighting.
One of the coolest things about the vampire squid is that it's covered in photophores. These are small, light-producing organs scattered all over the body that can be used to scare off predators.
They're invisible to the naked eye in a bright, daytime aquarium, but in the extreme depths of the ocean where the vampire squid lives in complete darkness, they can be as vivid as a fireworks display.
2. Do vampire squid really exist?
They're the last surviving species of their order, but vampire squid are very real. They live all over the world in extreme deep-sea conditions, and it's thought that they're at least as old as the dinosaurs. They might be even older!
3. Are vampire squid really squid?
No. Vampire squid have their own scientific order, Vampyromorphida, that's separate from any other species.
They are considered cephalopods along with squid, octopi, and mollusks, but each family is unique.
4. How far underwater do vampire squids live?
You'd have to swim for a long time to find the vampire squid. They reside at depths of 2,000 – 3,000 feet, which is so far below sea level that it's literally lightless. No sunlight penetrates that far.
There's also an immense pressure from the water when you get that deep, and there are very low concentrations of oxygen. Vampire squid live in a region of the ocean known as the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) or shadow zone. Few species can survive there, but vampire squid are specially designed to survive conditions that would kill many other sea creatures.
Most footage of the vampire squid is caught with remotely-operated underwater vehicles. They've never actually been observed in the wild; we've only gotten photos and videos by chance.
There are plenty of people who would like to study them, but they live so deep within the ocean that researchers can't just dive into the water and observe them like fish or coral.
5. How do vampire squid survive that deep?
Like other animals living in the OMZ, vampire squid have special characteristics that protect them from the dangers of the deep sea:
- Large gills. Vampire squid have gills that cover a wide surface area. This enables a greater oxygen intake in an environment where there's only a limited amount of oxygen to go around.
- Low metabolic rates. Vampire squid don't expend a lot of energy, and they aren't quick to digest their food. They'll also refrain from using certain defense mechanisms against predators unless it's absolutely necessary. The defense mechanisms can take a lot out of them.
- Increased buoyancy. Their soft, gelatinous bodies aren't much denser than the seawater around them, so vampire squid can float well. They also have ample amounts of statocysts. These are organs related to balance; they operate a bit like the fluid in a human ear. Statocysts keep the vampire squid coordinated.
6. How many species of vampire squid are there?
There's only one. There used to be others; scientists have found fossils of several different Vampyromorphida species. But the poor vampire squid is the only member of the family left.
7. How big is a vampire squid?
Vampire squid are difficult to study, so we don't have an accurate size range for them. We can only make a guess based on pictures and a few live specimens that have been caught. However, their general size range is 10 – 30 centimeters.
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8. How much does a vampire squid weigh?
Vampire squid usually weighs around one pound.
9. How many eyes does a vampire squid have?
Vampire squid have two eyes on either side of their head. The eyes are large and orb-like, and they can shine brightly in the darkness of their natural habitat.
In terms of proportions to body size, vampire squid have some of the biggest eyes in the entire animal kingdom!
10. How many hearts does a vampire squid have?
While we don't know this for certain, it's assumed that vampire squid have three hearts just like regular squid.
Two of them are branchial hearts that deliver blood to the gills, and the third is a systemic heart that delivers blood to the entire body.
11. Do vampire squid have fangs?
No. Unlike other animal species that are nicknamed “vampire” because of their long fangs or tusks, vampire squid don't have teeth. They don't consume blood, either.
12. What is the vampire squid Latin name?
The vampire squid's scientific name is Vampyroteuthis infernalis. This literally translates to “vampire squid from hell.”
It might sound fake, but it's their real classification in the animal kingdom!
13. Where did the vampire squid get its name?
Marine biologists got a bit of a shock when they first discovered the vampire squid in the late 1800s. They were sailing on the Deutschen Tiefsee Expedition, also known as the German Deep-Sea Expedition or the Valdivia Expedition, and they were exploring depths of the ocean that had never been seen or studied before.
A man named Carl Chun was the first person to record the vampire squid. It isn't known how he got close to such a rare creature, but the squid might have been hurt or hungry, or it might have drifted closer to the surface than usual.
At any rate, Carl Chun saw its red eyes, dark tentacles, and cape-like webbing, and he decided that it was a vampire squid from the depths of the underworld.
Here's his original illustration. It's hard to blame him for the name if he saw that swimming through the darkness of the ocean.
14. Why is it called vampire squid?
The vampire squid gets its name from its gothic appearance. As previously mentioned, it doesn't drink blood or chase after Kristen Stewart.
15. Are vampire squid aggressive?
Vampire squid aren't considered an aggressive species. They have some natural weapons, including spike-lined skin and the ability to produce both light and mucus, but these are always used in defense rather than offense.
They only feed on ocean detritus, and they aren't known to be hostile or territorial.
16. Do vampire squid bite?
No. Vampire squid don't even have teeth! They use the filaments on their tentacles for hunting and feeding.
17. Are vampire squid good swimmers?
Yes. Researchers used to think that they were sluggish and slow-moving, but captive vampire squid were found to be speedy swimmers.
They just can't keep up the pace for very long. They're capable of quick, short-term bursts of energy, but they have no real stamina to speak of, so they'll slow down sooner rather than later.
18. Are vampire squid dangerous?
Vampire squid aren't very dangerous. They don't hunt anything bigger than tiny jelly species, so other animals aren't threatened by them.
They might be able to hurt humans, but you'd have to capture one from thousands of feet below sea level, and you'd have to deliberately antagonize it to trigger a defensive reaction.
19. Do vampire squid glow?
Yes and no. Vampire squid have photophores on their bodies that allow them to produce bioluminescent lights to scare away predators.
This is a common feature in deep-sea cephalopods, especially squids; the firefly squid is actually known for its glittering, jewel-like appearance.
Vampire squid aren't that obvious, however. They don't keep their lights flipped on all of the time. That would only make them bigger targets in the dark!
They save their light show for when they've been cornered by a predator and need to stun them before dashing away.
20. Do vampire squid shoot light?
Basically, yes. A threatened vampire squid can shoot a shiny, sticky mucus out of its tentacles.
It can do this over and over again until it forms an illuminated cloud, and it often combines the light with writhing, wiggling movements and erratic body jerks that are meant to daze and confuse the other animal.
Some people refer to this display as a fireworks show. Like a real fireworks show, it doesn't happen often. It takes a high metabolic toll on the vampire squid, so they only unleash their full potential in a serious life-or-death situation.
21. How else do vampire squid defend themselves?
Photophores aren't the only ways that vampire squid can protect themselves. They also have the ability to turn themselves inside out!
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When faced with a predator, the vampire squid can invert its body until its caped tentacles completely cover its vulnerable neck and head.
This is sometimes called a “pumpkin” or “pineapple” posture. Not only does it provide an extra layer of padding, but it also exposes the spiky undersides of the vampire squid's tentacles.
The end result is a large, fearsome-looking figure covered in jagged points that has no visible face. Some predators aren't afraid of it, but others will choose to swim away rather than engage with such a strange and potentially dangerous enemy.
The real kicker is that the spikes aren't dangerous at all. They're called cirri, and they look sharp but are completely harmless. The vampire squid basically bluffs its way out of danger.
22. Can vampire squid regenerate lost limbs?
Not quite. The vampire squid can only regenerate the very tips of their tentacles. It's a sort of last resort when it comes to defending themselves from predators: they have extra-large photophores located on their tentacle tips, and when they're in their defensive pumpkin posture, the glowing tips are all clustered together.
This serves as an acceptable target that diverts the predator's attention away from other, more critical areas.
To put it another way, if a predator wants a bite of a vampire squid, it's better for them to take the shiny “look at me” tentacle tips rather than anything else. The vampire squid can always regenerate those non-essential parts later.
23. How long do vampire squid live?
For a long time, no one could be sure of the lifespan of a vampire squid, and it was assumed that they only lived 1 – 2 years like other squid and octopus species.
A recent study, however, suggests that they might live eight years or more. The estimate comes from the high number of eggs found in dead female specimens.
Some of them had as many as 10,000 egg cells that were available for spawning, and based on things like gestation times and an average number of eggs per clutch, eight years seems more likely than one.
24. Have vampire squid ever been observed in the wild?
No. All research on vampire squid has come from lost, injured, captive or dead specimens.
One study was even performed on the remains of vampire squid that had been preserved in jars of alcohol at a museum! The remains were from the 1960s and 1970s, but they'd kept well enough for studying.
25. Can vampire squid change colors?
No, not to our knowledge. While they possess the same color-changing organs as other cephalopods, vampire squid can't use them. The organs are too weak.
26. Do vampire squid have fins?
As you can see from their pictures, vampire squid have large fins on their faces. They're born with one double set and develop another double set as they age, and it's possible that they lose or reabsorb some when they're fully mature.
It hasn't been researched that much, so we can't be sure. As a matter of fact, scientists used to erroneously believe that there were multiple species of vampire squid living in the world's oceans because of confusion surrounding their fins.
Some specimens had two; others had four. It caused a lot of head-scratching until everyone figured out that it was an aging characteristic!
27. What eats a vampire squid?
Vampire squid are at the mercy of deep-diving and deep-dwelling animals. They've been found in the stomach contents of whales, sea lions, and rattails. One of their biggest predators is the six-foot giant grenadier.
28. Is the vampire squid extinct or endangered?
The vampire squid hasn't been officially evaluated by the IUCN, but it isn't extinct and is unlikely to be endangered. It's survived for more than 300 million years!
29. What do vampire squid eat?
Vampire squid are foragers and scavengers. They live off something known as marine snow: a never-ending shower of small, fragile organic material that drifts to the bottom of the ocean like snowflakes. It can consist of everything from seaweed to tiny dead remnants of salps and larvaceans.
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They get their food by simply stretch out their filaments until they come in contact with the marine snow.
They are the only known species of cephalopods that don't hunt for their food, they just collect it.
They like small, soft things, so there's never any real struggle. Plankton doesn't put up a fight.
30. Do vampire squid shoot black trails of ink?
No. Unlike true squid and octopi, vampire squid don't shoot cephalopod ink. Their only secretion is the bright mucus that they use to stun predators.
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31. Are vampire squid poisonous or venomous?
Vampire squid have no poison or venom. Even the mucus that they shoot from their tentacles is harmless.
32. How do vampire squid reproduce?
It's hard to answer this question since the species is so shrouded in mystery, but we know a few things about vampire squid and how they procreate.
For starters, they reproduce many times. This is completely unlike other squid and octopi that only reproduce once before dying. The female vampire squid can harbor as many as 10,000 immature egg cells in their bodies, and since they lay egg clutches of 100 or so, it has to be distributed in multiple pregnancies.
It's also known that male vampire squid have spermatophores. These are sperm capsules that are delivered to females. Females can hold onto them for many months before using them to fertilize their eggs.
33. What are young vampire squid like?
Babies hatch from eggs. They have the same general form as their parents, but they only measure around eight millimeters long, and their bodies are transparent.
They also lack webbing between their tentacles, and their filaments aren't fully formed yet. Both of these things will happen with time.
34. Where does the vampire squid live?
The vampire squid is thought to live all over the world. When you're that deep underwater, you aren't affected by things like tides and seasonal changes, so the vampire squid can live comfortably in any ocean.
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35. What is the habitat of the vampire squid?
Vampire squid resides at depths of 2,000 – 3,000 feet below sea level. Not much is known about their habitat outside of that. They might freely float around the water; they might hide in caves and coral. We haven't been able to observe them to know for sure.
36. Where can I see the vampire squid?
Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of ways to see the vampire squid in the real world. Only one aquarium has ever hosted living specimens, and they're gone now, so there are no zoos or waterparks where you can tap on the glass and watch them move.
It's equally impossible to observe them in the wild. As we've mentioned before, they reside so far underwater that humans can't travel to their natural habitat without the help of submarines and remotely-controlled recording devices. On top of that, no one has ever actually studied the vampire squid in the wild.
The occasional person gets lucky and finds a lost or injured vampire squid floating closer to the surface than usual. That's about it. The rest of us have to appreciate the vampire squid the old-fashioned way: as pixels on a screen.
Who's Afraid of a Vampire?
They're covered in spikes, but the spikes are harmless. They can shoot lightning bolts, but the bolts are made of nothing but light and snot. They're called vampire squids from hell, but when you take them out of the darkness of the ocean and put them into a cute little aquarium, there's nothing scary about them at all.
Vampire squid have a fierce reputation, but as you can see, it's completely unearned. They're simple creatures that have been minding their own business for centuries, and they pose no threat to humans. Most humans can't even travel deep enough to find them!
We hope that these vampire squid facts have been interesting and informative. The ocean might be a dark, scary place, but not everything inside of it is a monster. Vampire squid are proof!