The vampire octopus survived in the depths of the apocalypse that wiped out the dinosaurs

The vampire octopus survived in the depths of the apocalypse that wiped out the dinosaurs

The research, in which a Czech paleontologist participated, indicated how the ancient cephalopod was able to survive the extinction of species 66 million years ago.

At first glance, it is a terrifying creature. Blood red body, azure eyes, and teeth hidden between tentacles. A scarier animal would hardly have created the wildest fantasies.

In Czech, this remarkable octopus was named vampýrovka hlubinná. However, it is better known as the more terrifying term “vampire octopus”. And its Latin name is even scarier: Vampyroteuthis infernalis. This can be translated as “vampire squid from hell”.

The vampire octopus is the only living representative of the ancient order of vampires. Its oldest fossils date back to 200 million years ago. It is remarkable especially for the fact that it can inhabit great depths, where it is dark and where there is almost no oxygen.

The research, in which paleontologist Martin Košťák from Charles University participated, suggests that it was this ability that enabled her to survive to the present day.

Treasure between sepia

In 2019, Košťák went to the Museum of Natural History in Budapest to study sepia fossils. Together with colleagues from Slovakia and Hungary, he found a fossil considered to have been destroyed by a fire that engulfed the museum during the Hungarian uprising in 1956.

The cephalopod fossil was discovered in 1942 by the Hungarian paleontologist Miklós Kretzoi. He named it Necroteuthis hungarica.

“It was a great moment, the fossil lay in a box between the cuttlefish,” Košťák said.

Scientists examined the fossil using an electron microscope and subjected it to geochemical analysis. They found that it dates back to thirty million years ago and belongs to the deep-sea vampire. And they could also read from the data that the cephalopod was already living at great depths.

“Living in an environment with a stable low level of oxygen allowed the vampire to escape predators and get rid of competition from other species,” Košťák explained.

Harmless monster

The vampire, characterized by the membrane between the tentacles, is a harmless creature despite its frightening appearance. It grows only fifteen and thirty-five centimeters. It lives at a depth of one to three kilometers, where it feeds on organic debris descending to the bottom of the oceans.

“If we look deeper into the fossil record, the oldest fossils from this group of octopuses are found in the Jurassic period 201 to 174 million years ago. They have usually been found in low oxygen anoxic sediments. Such an environment used to be on the shelves. This suggests that vampires originally inhabited shallow waters, but were already adapted to deep conditions with a low oxygen content, “said Košťák.

A vampire discovery discovered in a Hungarian museum helps to at least partially fill fossil records of this species, which ended 145 million years ago. Sometime after this time, according to Košťák, it probably began to move into the deeper ocean.

Life in the depths may have helped her survive the impact of the asteroid 66 million years ago, which caused massive species extinctions and was paid for by dinosaurs. The ecosystem in this environment remained almost untouched by the disaster.


Livescience, Communications Biology


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