Figure modified from homepage
Vampyroteuthis infernalis
This website was created as a project for and undergraduate Biology Program at Davidson College.
Last Updated 10.25.2005

Vampire Squid

Vampyroteuthis infernalis is the only species within the order Vampyromorpha. It is an evolutionary question mark, displaying characteristics similar to octopods as well as decapods. It is relatively small, about 13 cm ML and similar to a jellyfish in gelatinous consistency (Young 1998). The Vampire Squid has three light organ structures: a pair behind the fins, a pair found in the dorsomedial area and number of small tissues on the head, arms and body (Herring 1994). These photophores can glow for extended periods of time (at least two minutes) or flash repeatedly.

Light organs in the arm tips are not visible from the surface unless emitting light. Those on the fins appear sunken because they are seated deep in a pigmented pit which can invert when pressure is applied to the body. After light emission has ceased, the fin photophores appear as discs that reduce in size. These are also most similar to the extraocular photoreceptors found in other cephalopods. Although they have not been found to monitor downwelling light, the transparency of the tissue suggests that it may represent a dorsal extraocular photoreceptor.

Two different positions and escape tactics have been viewed in a living animal. The first involves flashing different photophores at intervals of one to three seconds while rotating and writhing the arms, creating a very confusing visual display making it difficult to locate the exact position of the squid. This behavior is often followed by a rapid escape. The second involves a “pineapple position” where the arms and web are brought over the head. This posture coupled with bioluminescence causes the arms to appear to be moving towards the observer while the fin photophores appear to be fading into the distance (Young 1998).

Taningia danae

Heteroteuthis dispar

Figure (top): Drawing of V. infernalis. Richard Young.

Figure (middle): armtip from preserved vampire squid. Richard Young.

Figure (left): Vampire squid in two distinct positions (not those mentioned in the text). Small white dots on farthest left are photophores. Two larger dots on right are photoreceptors. Photographed by an ROV. Richard Young.