Swift and mysterious, vampire squid are an icon of life in the deep midwater.
It’s easy to imagine the vampire squid as a nightmarish predator. It lurks in the eternal midnight of the deep sea, has a dark red body, huge blue eyes, and a cloak-like web that stretches between its eight arms. When threatened, it turns inside out, exposing rows of wicked-looking “cirri.” Even its scientific name, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, means “vampire squid from hell.”
In reality, the vampire squid is a soft-bodied, passive creature, about the size, shape, and color of a football. A “living fossil,” it inhabits the deep waters of all the world’s ocean basins at depths where there is almost no oxygen, but also relatively few predators.
Maximum size: 30 centimeters (12 inches)
Depth: 600–900 meters (2,000–3,000 feet)
Habitat: midwater (oxygen minimum zone)
Range: worldwide in tropical and temperate waters
Diet: marine snow (including gelatinous zooplankton, abandoned larvacean houses, crustacean molts, dead diatoms, and fecal pellets)
Robison, Bruce H., Reisenbichler, Kim R., Hunt, James C., Haddock, S.H.D., (2003). Light Production by the Arm Tips of the Deep-Sea Cephalopod Vampyroteuthis infernalis. The Biological Bulletin, 205: 102-109. dx.doi.org/10.2307/1543231