Second Ever Vampire Squid Species Discovered In South China Sea

Second Ever Vampire Squid Species Discovered In South China Sea

Creatures of the deep dark ocean come in all shapes and sizes, but until now only one species of vampire squid has been known to be cruising along down there. However, Vampyroteuthis infernalis – which was discovered in 1903 – has now been joined by a second member of the genus, called Vampyroteuthis pseudoinfernalis, collected from the South China Sea. 

While V. pseudoinfernalis may not look like much, the new species has several differences to the OG of the vampire squid world. Notably, V. infernalis does not have a tail while the new species does, and the photophores, light-producing organs found on the side of the body, are on a different location of the body of the new species of squid. 

Despite their name, vampire squid are scavengers, and float through the ocean eating debris and marine snow. They are not squids at all but sit in their own family called Vampyroteuthidae, explains the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In 1903, when V. infernalis was first discovered, the specimen was originally thought to be a species of octopus, but was later reclassified. 

The new species was collected near Hainan Island in the northwestern South China Sea in September 2016 from a depth of 800-1,000 meters (2,624 -3,280 feet). The specimen was photographed and measured, and DNA was extracted to compare to other known squid species. Previous other specimens have been found that were originally believed to be different species, but turned out to be juveniles of V. infernalis. Fortunately, the DNA results and morphological comparisons confirmed that this was a brand new species of vampire squid. 

The authors describe the specimen in the paper as “extensively gelatinous”. Further differences between the two species include V. pseudoinfernalis having a broad, elongated wing of the lower beak. Despite their differences in appearance, the molecular evidence also strongly suggests that the two species share a common ancestor

The study is published in Zoological Systematics.

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