Vampire Squid Turns "Inside Out"

February 3, 2010—The vampire squid can turn itself "inside out" to avoid predators—as seen in a video just released by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to emphasize the need to protect deep-sea species from the effects of human activities.

© 2010 National Geographic; source video prepared by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

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Unedited Transcript

This menacing looking squid is just one of many species “out of sight and out of mind” that could be threatened by human activities far away from the part of the ocean in which they live.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute has released this video of the vampire squid to emphasize a report that raises a red flag about the earth’s oceans.

Vampyroteuthis infernalis is a type of living fossil, meaning that it has seen very little change since it first appeared, before dinosaurs, about 300 million years ago.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s Dr. Bruce Robison, who authored the report published in Conservation Biology, narrates the institute’s video:

“Vampyroteuthis has very large eyes, because it lives about a half a mile deep in the ocean, where the light is very dim. We took these pictures from a deep diving robotic submarine. And you can see the reflection of our lights in that beautiful blue eye.”

The vampire squid has 8 long arms, and a long curly strand that serves as a sensory filament.

It has a unique ability to react when it is startled. It can curl its web and arms around the rest of its body—turning sort of ‘inside out.’ This change in appearance may help it avoid being attacked by predators.

These cephalopods --they’re technically not squids-- live in the deep ocean with millions of other species, some of which are little-known and on which little study has been done.

Robison says human activities threaten all of these.

“They are threatened by ocean warming, decreasing oxygen, pollution, overfishing, industrialization and dozens of other changes taking place in the deep. We have a responsibility to learn all we can about these amazing animals and to protect them from the greatest danger to life in the deep: the human species.”

Robison’s focus is on the oceans’ “deep pelagic zones” which extend down from about 330 feet below the surface to just above the deep seafloor—up to six miles below the surface.

While the sea floor has had significant study, he points out little exploration has been done on this water above the deep floor.

This zone is home to species eaten by fish that humans eat, such as tuna and salmon. Many whales, turtles and giant squid also rely on this zone for their food.

Even though all of this is out of sight, any upset in the balance here can ultimately have a devastating effect on what humans have come to expect from the oceans – a place that provides food for millions of people.