Entertainment · June 23, 2022

The oldest known ancestor of the vampire squid was an active predator – unlike its descendant

Vampire by name, vampire by nature.

Scientists have discovered that the oldest known ancestor of the vampire squid had extra-strong suction cups and hair-like strands known as “cirri” on its arms, which it may have used to catch its prey.

This differs from the modern vampire squid, which feeds only on organic propellants and is not built for active hunting, with less robust suckers.

That Vampyronassa rhodanica is an ancient species of cephalopod related to octopus, octopus, and cuttlefish.

A research team from the Sorbonne University in France used three-dimensional imaging on a 164-million-year-old fossilized specimen of this cephalopod.

They found evidence of muscular suckers on the tips of two specialized, long dorsal arms, suggesting it was an active predator.

A hypothetical reconstruction of the Vampyronassa rhodanicaan old cephalopod

A photograph of one of the fossilized specimens of Vampyronassa rhodanica in this study.  It is believed to be one of the oldest relatives of the vampire squid, Vampyroteuthis infernalis

A photo of one of the petrified ones Vampyronassa rhodanica samples in this study. It is believed to be one of the oldest relatives of the vampire squid, Vampyroteuthis infernalis

3D reconstruction and image of the arm crown and a pattern of a dorsal sucker of V. rhodanica.  a: Reconstruction of the arm crown with 8 arms, with the longer dorsal arm pair (arm pair I) b: Image of arm pair I showing the suction cups and cirrus pairs.  c, d: 3D reconstruction of a dorsal suction cup in profile and mouth views, respectively

3D reconstruction and image of the arm crown and a pattern of a dorsal sucker of V. rhodanica. a: Reconstruction of the arm crown with 8 arms, with the longer dorsal arm pair (arm pair I) b: Image of arm pair I showing the suction cups and cirrus pairs. c, d: 3D reconstruction of a dorsal suction cup in profile and mouth views, respectively

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE OLD HEADFEET AND A VAMPIRE SQUID

The old cephalopod Vampyronassa rhodanica had muscular, toothless suckers and strong “cirri” at the tips of two specialized, long dorsal arms.

Cirri are hair-like strands thought to play a role in food intake, possibly by creating water currents that help bring food closer.

These suckers and cirri are more muscular than those of the modern vampire squid, Vampyroteuthis infernalis.

They may have aided in prey manipulation and restraint, suggesting the ancient animal may have been well-adapted to actively hunt in the open ocean.

This differs from today’s vampire squid, which feeds only on organic flotsam and is not built for active hunting.

Paleontologist Alison Rowe said: “We used synchrotron tomography at ESRF to better identify the outlines of the various anatomical features.

“We believe that the morphology and placement of V. rhodanica suckers and cirrus in the differentiated arm crown of V. rhodanica allowed increased suction and sensory potential over the modern form and helped them manipulate and retain prey.”

Vampyronassa rhodanica considered one of the oldest relatives of the vampire squid, Vampyroteuthis infernalis.

The vampire squid lives in extreme deep-sea environments, away from the shoreline and often with little oxygen.

It is the only living species of its family and also the only known living cephalopod that does not capture and eat live animals.

Instead, the vampire squid eats “sea snow” — detritus made up of bits and pieces of dead plankton creatures and fecal pellets.

Not much is known about the physical characteristics and evolutionary history of its family or ancestor v. Rhodanica.

This is because their Bodies are mostly made of soft tissue and are therefore rarely found fossilized.

However, three rare copies of v. Rhodanica from La Voulte-sur-Rhône more than 164 million years ago could be examined by the research team.

The eight-armed cephalopods were small, about 10 cm long, and had elongated, oval bodies with two small fins.

The team used a non-destructive, three-dimensional imaging technique to reanalyze these samples at the ESRF and the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris.

a: Photo of one of the fossilized specimens of V rhodanica.  b: X-ray CT image of the specimen of V rhodanica.  c: 3D rendering showing the arm crown and other putative elements of V rhodanica.  d: External 3D reconstruction of V rhodanica (e) X-ray CT image showing the profile view of V rhodanica

a: Photo of one of the petrified ones V. rhodanica specimens. b: X-ray CT image of the V. rhodanica Sample. c: 3D rendering showing the arm crown and other suspected elements of V. rhodanica. d: External 3D reconstruction of V. rhodanica (e) X-ray CT image showing the profile view of V. rhodanica

3D reconstructions (above) and virtual sections (below) of suction cup profiles.  a, b: Dorsal and sessile sucker profiles of V rhodanica specimens.  c: V infernalis / vampire squid sucker

3D reconstructions (above) and virtual sections (below) of suction cup profiles. a, b: Dorsal and sessile suction cup profiles V. rhodanica Copy or c: V infernalis/ Vampire Squid Sucker

Vincent Fernández, scientist at ESRF, said: “The fossils are on small plates that are very difficult to scan.

“In addition, soft tissues are preserved, but we needed phase-contrast imaging to visualize the faint density variation in the data.

“The coherence of the ESRF beamline ID19 was therefore very important to perform propagation phase-contrast computed tomography and track all the tiny details, like the suckers and small fleshy processes called cirri.”

The images, published today in Scientific Reports, show evidence of muscular, toothless suckers and severe “cirri” at the tips of two of its dorsal arms.

Cirri are hair-like strands thought to play a role in food intake, possibly by creating water currents that help bring food closer.

The configuration of the suction cups and cirri on the longer pair of back arms was also different than on the other arms.

They compared their data to that of an existing vampire squid specimen scanned at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and found that the suckers and cirri from the V. rhodanica were correspondingly more robust.

The modern vampire squid (pictured) feeds only on organic propellants and is not built for active hunting with less robust suckers

The modern vampire squid (pictured) feeds only on organic propellants and is not built for active hunting with less robust suckers

Hypothetical reconstruction of rhodanica vein based on the data from the study.  The team used a non-destructive, three-dimensional imaging technique to reanalyze cephalopod samples

Presumed reconstruction of V. rhodanica based on the study data. The team used a non-destructive, three-dimensional imaging technique to reanalyze cephalopod samples

The authors suggested that the Jurassic cephalopods used these suction cups to create a watertight seal that creates a secure suction force.

They may have aided in prey manipulation and restraint, suggesting the ancient animal may have been well-adapted to actively hunt in the open ocean.

It may have used the suction cups alongside its sensory conical appendages that detected the presence of prey.

The powerful suckers and cirri are not found in its vampire squid descendant, which has adapted to a low-energy, deep-sea lifestyle with opportunistic feeding.

Scientists spot a rare torpedo-like dragonfish lurking in the twilight zone of Monterey Bay – it’s only the fourth time it’s been seen

An incredibly rare species of deep sea dragonfish with a shimmering metallic bronze hue has been spotted in the ‘Twilight Zone’.

Marine scientists filmed the high-fin dragonfish (Bathophilus Flemingi) at 980 feet (300 meters) depth in Monterey Bay, Moss Landing, California.

The footage shows the fish swimming gracefully through the water like a bronze Parker pen or a sleek torpedo falling through the air.

This species — the rarest of all dragonfish — has smooth skin and a bronze color that can aid in camouflage for hunting.

Although they are good swimmers, they prefer to lie in wait and prey on unsuspecting fish and crustaceans.

The video was shot by experts at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).

Read more here