Secrets of the squid from Hell revealed
PARIS: The secret life of a mysterious creature that feeds on the decaying dead in the unlit depths of the ocean has been revealed.
The squid is so weird that it is known as a ‘phylogenetic relic’. It has the honour of occupying a taxonomic category all of its own, combining features of octopuses and squids in a unique evolutionary formula that has survived for millions of years.
Writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a pair of scientists in California report on 30 years of chance encounters with vampire squids by robot submarine explorers, laboratory experiments and dissections.
Vampyroteuthis infernalis – the ‘Squid from Hell’ – is the only species in the order Vampyromorpha, where it was placed in 1903.
The 13-centimetre (five-inch) cephalopod lives in temperate and tropical oceans, inhabiting waters at depths between roughly 600 and 900 metres (2,000–3,000 feet), a niche habitat where at the lowest levels there is just enough oxygen to support life.
It uses huge 2.5-centimetre (one-inch) eyes to detect the slightest gleam of movement, and deploys dark-blue bioluminescence to cloak its jelly-like body from predators below when it drifts at higher depths.