TGIF: Vampire Squid

The vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis) lives in the deep ocean, home to the largest ecosystems on our planet. A “living fossil,” this animal has remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of millions of years. The deep ocean contains what may be the greatest number of animal species, the greatest biomass, and the greatest number of individual organisms in the living world. Humans have explored the deep ocean for about 150 years, and most of what is known is based on studies of the deep seafloor. In contrast, the water column above the deep seabed comprises more than 90% of the living space, yet less than 1% of this biome has been explored. The deep pelagic biota is the largest and least-known major faunal group on Earth despite its obvious importance at the global scale. Pelagic species represent an incomparable reservoir of biodiversity. Although we have yet to discover and describe the majority of these species, the threats to their continued existence are numerous and growing. Conserving deep pelagic biodiversity is a problem of global proportions that has never been addressed comprehensively. The potential effects of these threats include the extensive restructuring of entire ecosystems, changes in the geographical ranges of many species, large-scale elimination of taxa, and a decline in biodiversity at all scales. This review provides an initial framework of threat assessment for confronting the challenge of conserving deep pelagic biodiversity; and it outlines the need for baseline surveys and protected areas as preliminary policy goals.

Dr. M (1730 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

2 comments on “TGIF: Vampire Squid
  1. Great video! It completely blows my mind that this creature exists, and has, for so many millions of years! My brain can’t handle geologic time!

  2. I first saw video of this wonderful creature on the episode of PBS’s Nature on cephalopods. It was accompanied by a matching bone-chilling violin solo that reminds me of the strangeness of life in the parts of the world that humanity hasn’t yet exploited.

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