Despite their name, vampire squid are not deep-sea bloodsuckers. In fact, new research finds these mysterious creatures are garbage disposals of the ocean.
Using long, skinny tendrils called filaments, vampire squid capture marine detritus hovering in the water ― from crustacean eyes and legs to larvae poop ― then coat it in mucus before chowing down, according to the new findings.
The discovery is a first for cephalopods, which include squid, octopus and cuttlefish, said study researcher Henk-Jan Hoving. “It’s the first record of a cephalopod that doesn’t hunt for living prey,” Hoving, a postdoctoral scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California, told LiveScience.
Vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis), which grow to be about a foot (30 centimeters) long, are widespread but not well-known. Even their life spans remains a mystery. Their name comes from their dark coloring, red eyes and the cloak-like webbing between their arms. And as namesakes of the undead, vampire squid apparently have little need for breathing. They thrive in oceanic oxygen minimum zones, where the oxygen levels are sometimes less than 5 percent that of the surrounding air…