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Vampyroteuthis infernalis (Family Vampyroteuthidae)

Vampire Squid



Deep open ocean in tropical and temperate waters world-wide (WA, NT, QLD, NSW, VIC, TAS).


A moderate size soft-bodied squid that reaches around 30 cm in length. Adults have a pair of wide fins off the middle of their body. Juveniles are unique amongst all the cephalopods in that they have two pairs of fins, one pair being lost with growth. There are eight arms, no feeding tentacles and a special pair of long thin sensory filaments that retract into pouches between arms one and two. Each arm has a single row of suckers, bordered on each side by a row of thin fingers of skin known as cirri. There are deep webs between the arms. This species has a range of light organs, including a pair of large organs on the rear of the body, others on the arm tips and many small light organs scattered over the undersides of the head, body and arms. The colour is generally red to dark brown, with a black lining in the arms and webs. The skin is soft and smooth.

Ecology/Way of Life:

This animal lives in the dark deep waters of open ocean at depths between 600 and 1200 metres. Little is known of the behaviour and biology of this unusual animal. The long sensory filaments seem to be used to find prey as deepsea submersibles have observed animals hanging midwater with the long filaments trailing long distances away from the body.

This species has a range of defences. When disturbed it pulls its arms and webs over the body, masking the animal within the black webs. It also uses light as a decoy or as a means of confusing its attackers. In one behaviour glowing arm tips are flashed to give the appearance that they are approaching while light from the organs on the rear of the body appear to be travelling away. If this doesn't work, it can squirt a cloud of luminous ink that glows for up to 10 minutes. Light is produced directly by chemical means.

Little is known of reproduction in this species. Females store sperm in a special deep pouch in front of each eye.

The Vampire Squid is considered an intermediate form between the squids and the octopuses.

Preferred Image

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The deep water existence of this unusual creature means that there is little overlap with human activities.

Further Reading:

Tree of Life website

Norman, M.D. 2000. Cephalopods: A world guide. ConchBooks, Hackenheim, Germany.


Text & map by Mark Norman; illustration by K Hollis.

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Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 85388 bytes The deep-sea Vampire Squid
Distribution Map  
image/jpeg 40979 bytes Distribution of Vampire Squid

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