Since humans started to notice the awe-inspiring wonders of the cosmos, we have been searching for other life in the universe to prove that we are not alone in it. Alien life seems to be intoxicating to many people. However, I would argue that one needs to look no further than our very own oceans to find aliens. Take, for example, the vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis). Vampyroteuthis infernalis literally translates as “vampire squid from Hell” (Vampire Squids 2013). They are an ancestral species that may represent a link between the octopus and squid lines in the evolution of groups of cephalopods. Vampire squids are not technically true squids, as they lack the ink sacs and the two long arms characteristic of true squids and primarily move by fin propulsion, not jet propulsion as adults (Vampire Squids 2013). Typically inhabiting waters of 600-900 m depth or even deeper, vampire squids are deep-sea pelagic organisms. They appear to be a blood-red color with large blue eyes and 8 webbed arms. Vampire squids have the largest eye-body size ratio of any other animal in the world (Vampire Squids 2013). One of the most interesting traits of this animal is the defense mechanism they employ commonly known as “pineapple posture” (Vampire Squids 2013). Since they grow to a maximum of 1 foot (30 cm) long, larger animals likely try to gobble up vampire squids for food. However, when the squids feel threatened, they engulf their mantle in their tentacles, essentially turning themselves inside out. The inside of their tentacle hood is black in color and lined with spines that the squid can push out to transform themselves into an unappetizing ball of spikes. Although first described in 1903, very little is known about the vampire squid. This is true of many other deep sea species as well. Who knows what other creepy, alien-like critters could be lurking in the depths of our oceans?
Below is a video showing the squid assuming pineapple posture when startled by a research team:
Interested in learning more about the vampire squid? Check these links for more information!
- Kelsey Dockter