Fossil of Glowing Fish With Vampire Teeth Found in Jurassic Rocks

Paleontologists have identified a new genus and species of vampyromorph coleoid from a fossil specimen found in the Middle Jurassic La Voulte-sur-Rhône Lagerstätte, France.

The vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis) is the only living species of the cephalopod order Vampyromorphida, which also includes many extinct species.

Named for their blue eyes, reddish-brown skin and webbing between their eight arms, these creatures are not technically true squids.

They combine features from both octopuses and squids, and likely represent an ancestral line between the two groups.

The newly-described vampyromorph species lived during the Middle Jurassic period, some 165 million years ago.

Fossil of Glowing Fish With Vampire Teeth Found in Jurassic Rocks
The specimen of Vampyrofugiens atramentum showing the 3D preservation of the mineralized soft tissue. Credit: Rowe

Named Vampyrofugiens atramentum, it had an ink sac, two internal light organs, Vampyroteuthis-like sucker attachments, and an octopus-type arm configuration and musculature.

“The combination of the ink sac and internal luminous organs is known from the recent times, although not from the coleoid (octopuses, squid and cuttlefish) fossil record,” said Sorbonne Université paleontologist Alison Rowe and colleagues.

Vampyrofugiens atramentum had a pelagic lifestyle in the La Voulte-sur-Rhône setting, and occupied a predatory niche.

The mosaic of characters in this species highlight that it used both predatory and defensive strategies, with a combination of defense mechanisms so far unknown from the fossil record.

The presence of an ink sac indicates that Vampyrofugiens atramentum was likely to be prey to contemporaneous predators and used concealment as a tool for evasion.

Its photophores suggest that it used bioluminescence as a form of obfuscation and communication.

The configuration of the arms and suckers in Vampyrofugiens atramentum in conjunction with the sensory functionality of the cirri, suggests that it used both to detect and capture prey.

“It is likely that the manipulation strategies used by Vampyrofugiens atramentum were similar to those seen in living octopuses given that the internal arm musculature mirrors that present in the extant eight-armed group,” the researchers said.

“This is the first evidence of this type of arm musculature preserved in Jurassic forms.”

The fossilized remains of Vampyrofugiens atramentum were found at the locality of La Voulte-sur-Rhône in Ardèche, France, and were preliminarily assigned to a previously known species, Vampyronassa rhodanica.

The study authors examined the fossil using high resolution X-ray-based imaging and reflectance transformation imaging.

“The addition of this new vampyromorph species not only increases the coleoid diversity known from the site, but also broadens the morphological variation observed in the co-occurring coleoid species,” they concluded.

“The findings suggest that there was a high diversity of cephalopods occupying differentiated communities during the Middle Jurassic.”


The above story is based on Materials provided by University of Tübingen.

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