The sort-of gross diet of the “vampire squid from hell”

Our colleagues at MBARI – the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute – have been sharing videos and stories about the vampire squid for years. We in turn have been sharing them with visitors during our daily Mysteries of the Deep auditorium program.

Now MBARI researchers have solved the mystery of what these unusual deep-sea animals eat. It’s a fascinating tale, with a high gross-out factor – if you’re easily grossed out by animals that eat corpses, feces and mucus.

Turns out that the vampire squid, an ancient animal with characteristics of both squids and octopus, lives in a low-oxygen zone where living prey is scarce. But there’s an abundance of marine snow raining down, consisting largely of poop, dead bodies and mucus discarded by other ocean life.

So, unlike all other known cephalopod species, it hangs out, waiting for this manna to sink down, where it traps the goodies on filament-like tentacles, wraps them in mucus and gobbles it up.

This despite a Latin name (Vampyroteuthis infernalis) that translates as “vampire squid from hell.”

You’ll find much more in the video, on the MBARI website, and in this article from Discovery News.

Not as charming as the cast of Twilight, perhaps. But a mystery of the deep – solved.

Notes

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    The vampire squid is a living fossil. How cool is that? (I should probably stop being so morbidly fascinated by deep-sea...
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About me

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, perched on the edge of a world-famous coastline, is your window to the wonders of the ocean. It’s located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey and is open daily except Christmas Day.

For more information about our animals and exhibits, and to view our live web cams, please visit www.montereybayaquarium.org.

Hours of operation vary by season. Daily schedules and tickets are available on our website or by calling
(831) 648-4800.