Yeah, you read that right: Vampire squids are full of lies.
In the latest delightful video for Science Friday's #CephalopodWeek, Bruce Robison of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute explains that the so-called vampire squid is neither a squid nor a vampire. It's actually a lot more interesting than a plain old squid with a taste for fish blood.
Vampyroteuthis infernalis literally means "the vampire squid of hell," but that's a misnomer to end all misnomers. The misconceptions run deep: In 2009, an article in Rolling Stone famously referred to Goldman Sachs as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."
Poignant, yes, but also impossible. A blood funnel is not actually a thing, and vampire squids certainly don't have anything of the sort. Naturally buoyant and residing in the very deep sea, vampire squids float along lazily and catch "marine snow" -- the particles of dead creatures and plants that fall down from the surface of the ocean.
And the "squid" moniker does infernalis an even greater disservice than its reputation for blood sucking. The vampire squid is actually a sort of living fossil: It's the only known member of its order, and it's thought to be more closely related to many extinct creatures than it is to modern octopodes and squid. Its remained virtually unchanged for hundreds of millions of years, probably because it's so well-suited to an environment where most things can't survive.
Like most deep-sea creatures, the vampire squid remains somewhat mysterious to scientists. But we're finding out more and more. In a recent study, researchers found that vampire squids could make eggs at more than one point in their life-cycle. That's unusual, because all other known cephalopods make their eggs in one go -- and most only get one chance to lay and brood them before dying. That capability hints at an unusually long life for the creatures, but scientists will have to observe them more closely to be sure.