Behold The Vampire Squid

Normally, I keep my blog away from Squid and other cephalopods because I know that if PZ myers feels threatened, he may charge, and the squiggly molluscs are his bailiwick.

But, this evening at the Laden household analog of the dinner table, the question came up: "How many species of cephalopods are there, anyway? Huh?"

So I went on line to look, and before I got anywhere near the answer to this interesting question, I came across the Vampire Squid, Vampyroteuthis infernalis. This turns out to be an animal of great extremes....

For example, "its most intriguing physical characteristic is that it has proportionally the largest eyes of any animal in the world. (Animal Diversity Web).

Here's a video:

Behold the Vampire Squid.

More like this

I especially like the 'chaff' dispersal to confuse the shark.

So radar chaff shouldn't have qualified for patents owing to prior art -- millions of years prior.

Are you sure this is not from The Onion?

By Elizabeth (not verified) on 02 Mar 2008 #permalink

Good idea to keep your blog away from squid, unless they are breaded.

Is the tag "living fossil" really appropriate here? Is it appropriate anywhere?

I don't see why the tag "living fossil" would apply here. After years of arguing that "living fossil" is a bad term, but at the same time knowing that if one define's one's terms appropriately, it is potentially correct in certain cases, I'm not so sure about the second part of your question.

Here is where "living fossil" maywork:

1) A species is "discovered" that was previously thought to not exist outside of the fossil record; and

2) It really is morphologically the same ... close enough to be the same species or at least in the same genus ... as a fossil form.

So, the coelacanth (to take a common example) would NOT be a living fossil because it would not be in the same genus as any known (at the time of its discovery) fossil form.

I have actually seen a live vampire teuthis. It was pretty beat up from being in the trawl but was still able to orient itself and swim around. Cephalopod people are impressed when I tell them this.

On the living fossil question, A very good example is the brachiopod Lingula. I have looked at Lower Cambrian shells as well as modern shells. I don't immediately see how one could tell them apart. They are featureless and look like sort of like fingernails. No doubt Lingula is a living fossil. However, I would call the coleocanth a living fossil in the sense that we thought its group was completely extinct long ago. It is the same as if we came up with a living dinosaur (not a bird) or pterodactyl. I think either of those would be immediately called living fossils as well. On the other hand, there are modern representatives of ancient groups, the crocodillians for example. But they have been here all along, everyone knows about them, and we never thought them extinct. So one does not hear much about them being living fossils.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 03 Mar 2008 #permalink

If we stick with my definition, Lingula is not a living fossil because it was not thought to be extinct, and Coelacanth is not a living fossil because it is not really like the extinct fish. (People only think it is like the extinct fish because it is called a living fossil... The Latimeria of the Indian Ocean is no more like it's ancient relatives than a sunfish is like a large mouth bass).

Of course, my definition may be completely flawed.

Largemouth bass, genus Micropterus, are sunfish, family Centrarchidae, and viable intergeneric hybrids within the family have been produced. Or were you thinking of Mola mola as the sunfish?

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 03 Mar 2008 #permalink

I doubt that either of us will have much impact on the popular press. Nevertheless, let us hope that more interesting organisms will be discovered who are living fossils, or not.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 04 Mar 2008 #permalink