A remarkable discovery during the study of the fossil of the predecessor of the deep-sea vampire was made by a team with Czech participation. Research into a fossil about 30 million years old has shown that vampires already lived in deep waters with minimal oxygen. Some experts assumed that this ability developed in the ancient cephalopod much later, said co-author of the research, paleontologist and geologist Martin Košťák. Scientists from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary collaborated on the study.
Also the circumstances of fossil research are unusual. Paleontologist Miklós Kretzoi, who published a work on the discovery in 1942, was first mistaken in his identification. “He thought it was the rest of some squid,” said Košťák, who works at the Faculty of Science of Charles University.
The Hungarian Museum of Natural History in Budapest then had the fossil in its collections, which was engulfed in fire during the Hungarian uprising. Experts then considered the fossil destroyed.
In 2019, Košťák and his colleagues originally went to the museum in order to find the oldest possible fossils of sepia. “Well, in the box, among the cuttlefish, there was just this ‘monster,'” the scientist remarked. According to Košťák, in addition to the analysis of an interesting vampire, the surrounding sediment also provided valuable information.
The scientist described that the team’s electron microscope confirmed that it was a vampire, as well as the result of another, geochemical, method. This showed the presence of organic substances instead of calcium carbonate, which according to Košťák is typical for sepia shells. The team also used 3D visualization and the method of X-ray microtomography.
Košťák pointed out that vampires, taken as living fossils, live in the depths in the so-called anoxia – an oxygen-free environment. “Some biologists thought it was a recent adaptation to those deep-water conditions. And we ‘said’ that 30 million years ago they lived in the same conditions, “the scientist described the main output.
However, the team went even deeper into the past. “When we came to the last known (fossils), which are about 120 million years ago and then the trail disappears. And here is the current one and then the new Hungarian one, “the expert explained.
“We looked at the bonds of the environment and found that they have been ‘flirting’ with anoxia throughout their existence, they still occur in oxygen-free conditions. And apparently sometime 100 million years ago, they penetrated to those depths and have already remained there, “said the scientist.
Harmless “vampire squid”
He said of the Hungarian fossil, which is only deep-water, that it lived at a depth of “below 500 meters”. “Today’s vampires live, for example, 700 to 2.5 kilometers below the surface,” Košťák remarked. He also remarked that predators do not dare to take an animal in depth, because few people get there. The eccentric, blood-red, vampire, nicknamed “vampire squid” because of its appearance, is harmless. It feeds on “sea snow” – the remnants of feces, plankton and dead organisms. He is the only living representative of the ancient order of vampires,
Apparently, thanks to an ancient descent into the depths, according to Košťák, vampires also survived the impact of an asteroid 66 million years ago, which caused a massive extinction of species.
According to the scientist, the ecosystem in the depths remained essentially intact. “They can still hide things that have been here since the jury. Which is also the case with a vampire, “Košťák concluded.