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Published February 1, 2010

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


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.

jim adams
jim adams

2 things: 1) technical -- i live just inside the back-of-the-beyond, effectively. Which is to say, our location gives poor reception for videos like this one. It took about 10 minutes to get to the end, playing 2 and 3 second bursts with 5 to 10 seconds between the bursts. I've watched a lot of NatGeo short videos (let's face it: yawl do good work, and your videos are a naturalists dream come true -- except on this one for technical reasons.) Is there something about the video format which makes it extra susceptible to reception  problems?


2) The video says that Vampyroteuthis lives below half a mile deep, that it has large eyes -- i assume this means comparable to it's size, and i assume that their eyes are smaller than our eyes. I note that our eyes are quite good in dim light here on the surface of our world.  Half a mile down, however, all the longer wavelengths of light have been filtered -- leaving only UV light. says that only 0.0062% of the surface light reaches a depth of 200 meters, and that UV dim blues and greens are what's visible at half a mile or more

Do you know if anyone has studied Vampyroteuthis in UV light? i ask because the video say that this inside-out behavior may make them look dangerous because of the "spines" (which are really soft touch receptors for inside their tentacle webbing)

I think that UV light would provide the only visibility at that depth, and that this inside-out behavior would only work for those which could see the shape, AND had previous visual experience with spines. So, does Vampyroteuthis have an ability to create UV patterns like squid do? Bright enough to be seen quickly by rapidly swimming predators?


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