Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vampire Squid

Vampire Squid
Phylum : Mollusca
Class : Cephalopoda
Order : Vampyromorphida
Family : Vampyroteuthidae
Genus : Vampyroteuthis
Species : V. infernalis

Length : 1ft (30cm)

IUCN Status : Not Listed

Vampyroteuthis infernalis literally means "Vampire Squid from Hell," which is a scary name for a creature so small. They are remarkably interesting because they are the sole living members of the Vampyromorphida order, and the have traits of both Octopuses and Squids. When they were discovered and described in 1903, they were initially placed within the Octopus Order.

The Vampire Squid is different from True Octopuses and Squids in a handful of ways. Their bodies posses the same color changing chromatophores that Squids have, but they lack the ability to actually change color. They have webbing between their eight arms, which is similar to Octopuses, but they also have two long filaments that can extend and retract. These filaments look similar to the two long tentacles found on Squid, but are different in function and composition. The Vampire Squid's arms, (along with their sometimes red eyes) help to give them their name. Each arm has a row of suckers, along with a row of spines that look a bit like pointed teeth.

Juvenile Vampire Squids go through an interesting metamorphosis as they grow, causing a total change in the way that they move. When they are young they move by jetting themselves around, and the two little fins on their mantle don't do much. When they reach about 2.5cm long, they grow a whole new pair of fins, and the first set is absorbed into the body. At this point the Squid propels itself with the fins rather than with jetting.

Vampire Squids, like many other crazy looking ocean dwellers, can be found in the deep seas between 1,000-10,000 ft (300-3,000m) down. They are found in temperate and tropical oceans around the world. Their bodies have proportionally huge eyes and numerous bioluminescent organs called photophores. The photophores are larger at the tips of the arms, and the Vampire Squids ability to manipulate these lights helps them to disorient prey and to escape from their own predators.

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