Vampire Squid From Depths of South China Sea Could Be New Species, Experts Say

According to experts, the vampire squid discovered in the South China Sea has the makings of a new species.

A strange “vampire squid” has been discovered in the ocean, and some scientists think that the creature may be a brand-new species. The specimen in question was gathered in 2016 by an expedition led by the Natural Science Foundation of China in the northwest South China Sea at a depth of roughly 2,600-3,300 feet.

Following that, a team of Chinese researchers examined the specimen while taking numerous pictures. In a paper that was released last month, they concluded that the specimen belonged to a new species of vampire squid.

Vampire Squid

The vampire squid is a peculiar deep-sea creature that can be found all over the world in temperate and tropical areas of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans, but because they live so deep, humans hardly ever get to see them.

These elusive creatures typically favor deep, cold, and dark habitats that are 2,000-3,000 feet below the surface.

Low oxygen levels are typical of the ocean layers where the vampire squids typically reside. Vampire squids, however, have developed a variety of unique adaptations that allow them to survive in such hostile environments.

The vampire squid flips over its cape when provoked, exposing the thick spines that run along the underside of its arms. This species appears rather intimidating when it adopts this posture, but it is indeed very harmless.

Rather than being predatory, it relies instead on food particles that it traps with the help of sticky cells located on its lengthy, filamentous tentacles. It feeds opportunistically in this way by consuming animal and plant matter that sinks from the ocean’s surface, Oceana reports.

New Species

This creature is neither an octopus nor a squid, despite its name and outward appearance. Instead, vampire squids are a member of their order of cephalopods, a group of mollusks that also includes cuttlefish and all the animals mentioned above.

The only known surviving animal from the Vampyromorphida order is the vampire squid, which has a maximum length of about 12 inches.

Vampyroteuthis infernalis, which translates to “vampire squid from hell,” was the name given to the single species of vampire squid that was first identified in 1903.

The existence of additional vampire squid species is unknown, despite efforts by some scientists to find the answer.

According to Bruce Robison, a Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute senior scientist, only one species of vampire squid has been identified despite the fact that some of them appear to be superficially different.

For instance, vampire squid off the coast of California typically has a reddish rust color, while those seen elsewhere in the world are black.

For Peer Review

Although Vampyroteuthis infernalis is the sole accepted species to date, the authors of a recent bioArxiv post stated that morphological variations between specimens collected from the Gulf of Guinea, Africa, and California have raised the possibility that other species exist.

Based on the specimen discovered in the South China Sea, which they refer to as Vampyroteuthis southchinaseais, they claimed that their data strongly fully supports the existence of at least two different vampire squid species. They examined the animal’s genetics and body shape and concluded that it was a new species.

The form of its “tail” and lower beak, the location of its photophores, or light-producing organs, and its genetic traits, according to the researchers, set V. southchinaseais apart from V. infernalis.

Also Read: 5 Octopus Facts that Every Cephalopod Enthusiast Must Know 

The vampire squids have photophores all over their bodies, which allows them to produce brilliant light displays that may help to frighten away predators or even draw in prey.

V. southchinaseais also has two photophores between the fins and tail, and the lower beak has a broad, protruding wing. They contrasted this with V. infernalis, which, according to the authors, appears to lack a tail, has photophores close to the fins, and has a lower beak with a wide but short wing.

This discovery raises an interesting question for subsequent research on the ecological roles of new species of Vampyroteuthis in deep-sea ecosystems, according to Dajun Qiu from the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and an author of the paper.

However, some researchers doubt that the specimen the Chinese team characterized in their study actually belongs to a novel species of vampire squid.

Robison stated that the anatomical results of the research published in bioRxiv ought to be interpreted with extreme caution, although he lacked the expertise to assess the team’s molecular data. Moreover, he mentioned that the paper has not yet undergone peer review, Newsweek reports.

Related Article: Rare 8-Foot Giant Squid with Terrifying Thick Arms Spotted on Western Coast of Japan 

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