Research Press Release

Palaeontology: Oldest known vampyropod fossil found

Nature Communications

March 9, 2022

A newly discovered fossil octopus with ten arms, which is approximately 330–323 million years old, is described in a paper published in Nature Communications. The fossil is thought to be the oldest known ancestor of vampire squid and octopus, and has been named Syllipsimopodi bideni, after President Joseph Biden.

Vampyropods are the ancestors of vampire squid and octopus, but their origins are unclear as they rarely fossilize due to their primarily soft tissue composition. Previously discovered fragmentary remains have been dated to around 240 million years ago, but genetic data has indicated that vampyropods originated much earlier, between 330 and 250 million years ago.

Christopher Whalen and Neil Landman describe a fossil representing a new species of vampyropod, which was found in the Mississippian Bear Gulch Lagerstätte (Montana, USA). The authors dated the specimen to around 330–323 million years ago, making the fossil the oldest known vampyropod to date. They suggest the fossil pushes back the origins of vampyropods by around 82 million years to a timeline consistent with genetic evidence. They report that the specimen is well preserved and around 12cm long with 10 arms showing suckers and fins and a long gladius (a hard, triangular internal structure). These features lead the authors to suggest that the specimen would have been torpedo-shaped, similar to existing squids. The authors have named the fossil Syllipsimopodi bideni, in honour of the 46th President of the United States, Joseph R. Biden.

The authors suggest the findings present a revised and more detailed analysis of vampyropod evolution than previously possible.


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