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Biological oceanography

Deep Sea Vampires and Octopods

Happy (early) Halloween from the depths of the sea! The two animals from this study live in the deep sea and not much is known about their lives. I’m talking about a deep-sea octopus named Japetella diaphana and a vampyromorph named Vampyroteuthis infernalis (more commonly known as the vampire squid).

Image of a vampire squid.

The vampire squid eats drifting particles called “marine snow”. Marine snow is organic material falling through the water column such as the dead bodies of organisms (including plankton) and fecal matter. This animal can turn almost inside out by wrapping its arms around its body when it’s disturbed. Picture credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vampyroteuthis_infernalis.jpg

Tropical, Temperate, and Deep-Sea

The scientists wanted to know more about the growth rates and lifestyles of these animals since estimations of their age range and growth are unknown. Interestingly, octopods and squids more commonly found in temperate and tropical areas are more commonly studied. These studies demonstrate that using the growth increments on the beak is an effective method to determine their growth rates. However, when comparing the temperatures these animals live in, their metabolic rates, and their feeding habits, the pace of life between deep sea animals from temperate ones should be very different. Animals in the tropics and temperate regions are known to have a more food available along the surface than when you get into deeper parts of the ocean. So, the organisms that live in deeper waters have a lower metabolism. This in turn results in a slower growth rate. After all, animals need to eat in order to grow.

But since not much is known about the deep-sea octopod and vampire squid’s growth, the scientists used the same method used for the tropical cephalopods (examined growth increments on the beak) to measure overall growth rate.

An image of a fully extracted giant squid beak. The beak itself is a dark or light brown in color.

This is an image of a Giant Squid beak. If you look closely, you can see very faint lines. These lines are the growth increments of the beak. Picture credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Extracted_giant_squid_beak.jpg

Growing, Growing, Gone!

After measuring 278 Japetella diaphana and Vampyroteuthis infernalis individuals, the researchers determined that the growth rate of the beaks did not relate well to the overall growth and age of the organisms. These results are different from the tropical and temperate cephalopods which tend to have daily increments of growth on the beak. This suggests that deep sea octopods and the vampyromorph may require longer time for growth increments on their beaks to form. Lifestyle strategies and habitat differences must be considered for the management of these deep-sea animals. As it is important to consider the environment that animals live in. Based on this study, it is difficult to compare growth rates between deep-sea and tropical species, thus demonstrating the need for more studies on deep-sea animals. Even though animals may be similar, their environment plays a big role in how they live.

If you enjoyed this post and would like more information on cephalopods click here!

Article:

Schwarz, R., Piatkowski, U., Robison, B. H., Laptikhovsky, V. V., & Hoving, H. J. (2020). Life history traits of the deep-sea pelagic cephalopods Japetella diaphana and Vampyroteuthis infernalis. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 164, 103365.

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