The chambered nautilus is an outlier among its kindred cephalopod. Octopuses and squids abandoned their shells somewhere along their evolutionary journey, sacrificing protection for increased mobility. The nautilus, however, lives the best of both worlds, maintaining its shell while still deftly navigating the ocean with its jet propulsion skills. Don’t let anyone say you can’t be two things at once.
Although its Latin name literally translates to “vampire squid from hell,” the vampire squid is the epitome of misnomers.
For one thing, it exists in an order separate from squids and octopuses, thanks to retractable filaments that allow it to feed on dead plankton and other detritus half a mile below the surface of the ocean.
For another, it is not a vampire in any conceivable way — except maybe for its love of dark, inaccessible depths. In the face of predators, the vampire squid prefers deception and escape over bloodlust.
Perhaps the only shared trait it has with vampires is its propensity for hypnosis. When threatened, it inverts its webbed tentacles to become a gelatinous ball of harmless but foreboding spikes, and its tentacles pulse with blue luminescence to lure hungry jaws away from its vitals.
For better or worse, names define us. Most of us inherit our names with no real agency in the matter, and even if we change them, identity is a hard thing to evade once it’s been established.
In the case of the vampire squid, perhaps this is a good thing. When you are a peaceful scavenger with no defenses, maybe it’s better to perceived by your enemies as an abyssal horror who’s thirsty for blood!