Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, Living Fossil

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Vampyroteuthis infernalis


One of the most interesting, popular, and intriguing of all living cephalopods is that of Vampyroteuthis, the Vampire Squid. To follow is a brief look at this 'living fossil', its history, behaviour and lifestyle.

Vampyroteuthis was first discovered and described in 1903 by the German marine biologist Dr Carl Chun, who served aboard the research ship Valdavia, then engaged in deep-sea surveys off the Guinea Basin in the Atlantic Ocean, during which the first specimen was trawled at a depth of 1,400 meters. So taken by the bizarre appearance of this animal, Chun named it Vampyroteuthis infernalis, literally the 'Vampire Squid from Hell', owing to its dark-red skin, purplish-black web, fins, white beak and deep-set red eyes -- giving it a somewhat nightmarish appearance. He described it as a somewhat gelatinous, small-finned octopus that he believed to be fairly inactive.

The next forty-or-so years saw numerous Vampyroteuthis collected from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, with specimens attributed to no less than eleven species in eight genera. Following detailed analyses, Dr Grace Pickford (1946) concluded that all of these forms were likely ontogenetic stages of a single species and that only one valid genus and species existed, V. infernalis.

Moreover, the differences between Vampyroteuthis and other Recent cephalopods led Pickford to differentiate it from all of them, accommodating it in its own Order, the Vampyromorphida. Vampyroteuthis was...
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About the Author
Phil joined the staff in April 2003. He collects fossils as a hobby, frequently plundering a quarry at Folkestone in the U.K. He has a degree in British archaeology and works for a government department at Dover in England.


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