Top 12 Unique Vampire Squid Facts

The deep ocean is an amazing unknown world and a lot of fascinating creatures living there. One of these creatures was named after a fictional folklore blood-sucking character that you wouldn’t want to come across anytime soon.

Why is this particular type of squid referred to as a vampiric creature? Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about the Vampire Squid so you can learn everything about this intriguing animal.

1. Where does the vampire squid live?

The vampire squid is known by its scientific name Vampyroteuthis infernalis. This literally translates to “vampire squid from hell.”

This small cephalopod is part of the family Vampyroteuthidae and differs quite a bit from its distant relatives such as the octopus and various other types of squids. That’s mainly because they were the first creatures in this class to evolutionary diverge from other octopuses.

Because of the special characteristics, they have developed they are put into an order of their own called the “Vampyromorphida.” They are the only extant species in this order as well.

You don’t have to fear ever coming across one of these creatures because they live at extreme depths. Thye can be found anywhere between 600 and 900 meters (2,000 and 3,000 feet) and most probably even deeper.

They can also only be found in the world’s tropical and subtropical parts of the world’s oceans.

Model of vampire squid
Model of the animal / Emőke Dénes /

2. This creature has a unique ability among its family members

The most distinctive characteristic of the vampire squid is their ability to survive in locations where the oxygen level is less than 3% of that near the ocean’s surface.

What’s even more remarkable is that they can breathe quite normally as well as, quite astonishing since most other animals would simply suffocate at these low oxygen levels.

As expected, this also means that they have adapted in several ways:

  • They have the lowest metabolic rate of any cephalopod.
  • They have the best blood circulation of all cephalopods.
  • Their gills have a very large surface area which helps them to breathe.

3. How big are vampire squids?

Even though their name sounds very scary, these are actually very small animals. They only reach a maximum length of 30 centimeters (10.8 inches).

Their body length is only half that at about 15 centimeters (5.9 inches). Just like most deep ocean creatures, their body is gelatinous, perfectly suited to cope with the extreme conditions at these depths.

The most distinctive feature of this unique creature is its 8 arms that are interconnected by a thin layer of skin.

The combination of this layer of skin, which resembles a cape, and its dark-red to black color is why it was named vampire squid.

Vampire squid 8 arms
The 8 arms of the vampire squid / Wiki Commons

4. What does the vampire squid eat?

Now that the mystery of why these creatures were named the way they are is solved, we can also mention that vampire squids don’t suck blood like the fictional characters with the same name.

These animals have eight arms but don’t feed the same way as most octopuses and squids, mainly because these arms lack feeding tentacles.

They feed using 2 filaments which they can retract and which contain small hairs. These contain sensors that they use to detect and secure their prey.

Their diet mostly consists of waste material floating around in the ocean such as gelatinous zooplankton, but they also capture complete living prey such as copepods, ostracods, amphipods, and isopods.

One of the most amazing facts about vampire squids is that they also have bioluminescent organs which they use to lure their prey. Once their victim is close enough they can sprint towards it at a speed of 5 body lengths per second.

That’s quite remarkable for an animal with such weak muscles. The downside is that their stamina is incredibly low as well.

Vampire squid facts
The light-producing organs / Citron /

5. These animals were only discovered in the late 19th century

The foundation of oceanography was laid during the so-called “Challenger Expedition” between 1872 and 1876. Over 4,000 species were discovered during this expedition which was named after the ship that was used at the time, the “HMS Challenger.”

The vampire squid wasn’t one of the species that was discovered. This remarkable creature was only discovered during the “Valdivia Expedition” between 1898-1899.

This expedition was led by German marine biologist Carl Chun (1852-1914) and had the goal of discovering life at a depth of 550 meters (1,804 feet) and lower.

Today, some individuals that are captured are sometimes kept in aquaria, even though most of them are injured and only survive for up to two months.

The first-ever vampire squid that was put on public display in an aquarium happened in 2014 at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. Here is some footage of these unique creatures:

More interesting facts about Vampire Squids

6. The vampire squid isn’t the only deep-ocean creature that can produce light. This animal is, however, almost entirely covered in photophores, a type of light-producing organ they use to lure in prey.

7. They can use these bioluminescent organs to produce flashes to disorientate their potential victims, mainly using the tip of their 8 arms.

These flashes can range from just a couple of seconds to several minutes. The intensity of these lights can also be adjusted by these animals, so they can pretty much dim the light so to speak.

8. Many octopuses feature an ink sack which they use whenever they are startled. This is a defense mechanism that works quite well at much lower depths of the ocean. At the bottom of the ocean, in a place where it’s pretty much pitch-dark, this is useless.

Vampire squids don’t possess such an ink sack. whenever they feel threatened, they simply start waving their 8 arms around and wrap them around their own body. This pretty much turns these creatures inside-out, a pretty remarkable sight.

9. The reproduction cycle of these animals is believed to be rather slow. The male injects a packet of sperm into the female during mating and she ends up spawning the eggs in several events.

vampire squid sideview
Sideview of the animal / Wiki Commons

10. The spawning events take quite some time because of the low metabolic rate of these animals and the fact that it takes a lot of energy to spawn.

11. The huge benefit of living in the extreme depths of the ocean is that the lack of oxygen also means there’s a lack of apex predators.

Regardless, some unlucky individuals have been found in the stomach of deepsea predators such as giant grenadiers, and even in those of whales and sea lions.

12. Even though they are capable of swimming at speeds of 2 body lengths per second and sprint at speeds of up to 5 body lengths per second, they mostly just floating around at the bottom of the ocean.

They do this mainly to preserve energy, something very needed at these depths. This means that they only actually swim when there is potential prey in their vicinity.

That’s how these creatures can survive in some of the harshest conditions for life on the planet imaginable.

Vampire squid black