Finally, a vampire squid (or two)!

March 27, 2013

For those of you who have been following the midwater lab’s blogs over the last couple of years, you know that one of our target animals is the vampire squid, Vampyroteuthis infernalis. Much of the research on the vampire squid has been conducted by MBARI’s midwater lab, including recent research about what it really eats.

Despite all of the research conducted by this group, we have not seen a vampire squid in Monterey Bay since 2011. Needless to say, we were hoping to break our vamp dry spell. Finally, the long hours spent looking for the vampire squid paid off! At 880 meters (2,800 feet), we came upon a large one.

This Vampyroteuthis infernalis is about 20 centimeters (eight inches) long from arm tips to the tip of its mantle.

This Vampyroteuthis infernalis is about 20 centimeters (eight inches) long from arm tips to the tip of its mantle.

A “living fossil,” the vampire squid inhabits the deep waters of all the world’s ocean basins. It is able to thrive in this harsh environment by feeding on mostly “marine snow”—a mixture of dead bodies, poop, and snot. Vampire squid don’t have to expend much energy avoiding predators, because they live at depths where there is so little oxygen that few other animals can survive.

Within 10 minutes of collecting the vampire squid, we came across another one—this one much smaller—a juvenile! As juveniles, vampire squid have two sets of fins. As they get older, the posterior set resorbs.

This juvenile Vampyroteuthis infernalis is only a few inches long and although you can’t tell from this image, it has four fins (two sets).

This juvenile Vampyroteuthis infernalis is only a few inches long and although you can’t tell from this image, it has four fins (two sets).


Chris Payne and Alicia Bitondo quickly put the vampire squid in the cold room, keeping it covered to reduce exposure to light.

Chris Payne and Alicia Bitondo quickly put the vampire squid in the cold room, keeping it covered to reduce exposure to light.

To learn more about Vampyroteuthis infernalis watch these videos on MBARI’s YouTube channel:

—Susan von Thun