Marine Biologists Discover Vampire Squids Eat Marine Snow

Posted on September 26, 2012

Marine biologists have discovered what mysterious vampire squids eat. A new paper by MBARI Postdoctoral Fellow Henk-Jan Hoving and Senior Scientist Bruce Robison shows for the first time that, unlike its relatives the octopuses and squids, which eat live prey, the vampire squid uses two thread-like filaments to eat mostly "marine snow." Marine snow is described as a mixture of dead bodies, poop, and snot that floats down from the ocean surface into the deep sea.

Hoving and Robison used MBARI's ROVs to collect live vampire squids and study their feeding habits in the laboratory. They found that if they placed bits and pieces of microscopic animals into a tank with a vampire squid, the food particles would end up stick to one of the string-like filaments the creature sometimes extends outward from its body. The vampire squid then draws the filament through its arms, removing particles from the filament and enveloping them in mucus. The squid then transfers the glob of mucus and particles to its mouth and eats it.

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