HomeOutdoorsNewsRare Vampire Squid Pulled From 3,000 Feet Under the Sea Could Be New Species

Rare Vampire Squid Pulled From 3,000 Feet Under the Sea Could Be New Species

by Caitlin Berard
Giant Squid Species Similar to Vampire Squid
(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Back in 2016, scientists pulled a haunting, jet-black vampire squid from the depths of the ocean. A study completed on the bizarre animal in the years since has led experts to believe it could be an entirely new deep-sea species.

The strange sea creature was collected during a Natural Science Foundation of China expedition in the northwestern South China Sea, during which scientists pulled the squid from a depth of around 2,600-3,300 feet. This depth is known as the aphotic zone, an abyss so far from the surface that the creatures who inhabit it live in complete darkness.

The group of Chinese scientists to discover the specimen conducted extensive studies. Through these studies, they determined that the vampire squid should be described as a new species.

Their paper on the specimen, published on bioRxiv, however, has yet to be peer-reviewed. Additionally, other scientists in the field don’t fully agree with their findings.

Because they live so far from the reach of humans, little is known about the behavior of vampire squids. That said, we do know that they prefer the deep, dark, and cold reaches of the ocean. They live in areas with as little as 3% oxygen saturation. But rather than suffocate, they thrive, enjoying a life far away from the vast majority of predators.

The species’ scientific name is Vampyroteuthis infernalis, described as such by researchers in 1903, the year they were first discovered. The English translation of this Latin epithet is “vampire squid from hell,” a description fitting its odd appearance.

Scientists Maintain Their Research ‘Strongly Supports’ the Existence of Two Vampire Squid Species

Though the species resembles a squid (and is named as such), vampire squids are actually neither squids nor octopuses. The unusual sea wildlife belongs to an order of cephalopods entirely their own. Many scientists believe the remarkable species we know today is the only surviving member of the order Vampyromorphida.

The most recent study, however, “strongly supports” the existence of a second vampire squid species. Scientists dubbed this species Vampyroteuthis southchinaseais after determining its body shape and genetics were different from that of an infernalis.

The squid pulled from the depths was pitch black rather than reddish brown. That said, scientists have documented this coloration before. The true sign of a new species came in the shape of its “tail” and lower beak, the position of its bioluminescent organs, and its genetic characteristics beyond coloring.

Meanwhile, other experts went as far as to call their findings “foolish,” as they based an entire study on a single specimen. Additionally, Bruce Robinson, a senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, claimed that their study wasn’t even accurate.

“I know the anatomy of these animals pretty well and I am very skeptical of the manuscript,” Robison told Newsweek. He explained that the existing species of vampire squid matches the description of the “new” species extremely well and that the differences the scientists cited were incorrect.

“There’s no hard and fast rule about how many specimens are required to describe a new species, but more is better,” Robison said.