The Lonely Existence of Vampire Squids

Vampyroteuthis infernalis or the “vampire squid from Hell” is likely one of the coolest denizens of the deep. At one-foot long (You thought it was bigger didn’t you?) the fire-y colored invertebrates are also completely covered in light-producing photophores. Despite the hellish name, they are not ferocious predators but rather feed by dropping two retractile filaments down to capture small bits of material and small invertebrates. Residing at depths between 500-1000 meters, Vampire Squids are often found as lone drifters in the blacky depths.

Despite the name, however, Vampire Squids are not really squids. They are more closely evolutionarily allied with octopods, but they aren’t really octopods either. Vampire Squids are evolutionary all alone residing in thier own long branch of the tree of life.

If we look at this phylogeny from Lindgreen and coauthors from 2012 based on multiple genes.

Cephalopod Phylogeny from Lindgreen et al. 20102

And zoom in at the upper part of the tree

Let’s zoom in a little more

You can clearly see that Vampyroteuthis infernalis resides on alone on its own evolutionary branch. It shares its last common ancestor with the octopods but this a distant relative at best. Many think the Vampire Squid may be”phylogenetic relict” the last surviving member of order cephalopods long ago extinct.

One truly is the loneliest number. While you reflect on this evolutionary and ecological isolation of the Vampire Squid enjoy these videos from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. 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. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. 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.

One Reply to “The Lonely Existence of Vampire Squids”

  1. Enough with this sea-snot eating, nightmarish critter! The public wants more pictures of the adorable, snugglebunny octopus NOW and pictures with the snugglebunny octopus sound asleep on the head of a diver or on top of a submersible looking like it’s the pilot will be in the most demand! ;-)

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