Yale University and the American Museum of Natural History research teams have discovered the earliest recorded family of octopuses and vampire squids and decided to name it after the 46th President of the United States of America.
To catch their food, Syllipsimopodi bideni featured 10 arms, fins, and rows of suckers. It flourished in the seas 328 million years ago and introduces a different kind of species for vampyropod which is a marine animal category that comprises of present octopuses and vampire squid.
The animal was given the name after President Joseph R. Biden to commemorate the newly-elected president, who had just been sworn into office at that same period the research was passed for publication, and is also to acknowledge his devotion to science.
However, the presidential name is only one aspect of the animal's importance.
“Our findings suggest that the earliest vampyropods, at least superficially, resembled squids that are living today,” said Christopher Whalen, a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow in Yale’s Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences and at the American Museum of Natural History.
Whalen is the first author of a study about the discovery published in the journal Nature Communications.
“Syllipsimopodi bideni also challenges the predominant arguments for vampyropod origins and offers a new model for the evolution of internally-shelled cephalopods,” he said.
The documentation was made by Whalen and co-author Neil Landman of the American Museum of Natural History from a specimen found in central Montana and now housed in the Royal Ontario Museum's collection.
The discovery of Syllipsimopodi bideni adds roughly 82 million years to the fossil evidence of vampyropods. This is the sole vampyropod with ten functional arms renowned to science. Octopods, on the other hand, only have eight arms, whereas present vampire squid have eight arms and two filaments. Squids and cuttlefish with ten arms are common in the modern world.
Initial vampyropods like Syllipsimopodi bideni had a gladius, which was a flattened, semitransparent remnant of an internal shell.
“Today, only squids and their relatives, and vampire squid, have a gladius,” Whalen said. “Octopods have reduced it to a fin support or stylets, which are small, hard, bar-shaped structures.”
Syllipsimopodi bideni, according to Whalen, has a torpedo-like body shape. Its fins were big enough to act as stabilizers and aid in swimming. Its arms were significantly longer than the other four pairs, similar to the modern squid which has two elongated tentacles. The studies suggest Syllipsimopodi bideni utilizes its longer arms to encapsulate their prey — possibly smaller, shelled creatures — and its shorter arms are used to bound and control the prey.
Furthermore, Whalen explained that the researchers named the creature after Biden because the paper was approved shortly after the president's inauguration and the Capitol insurgency on January 6.
“I wanted to somehow acknowledge the moment in a way that was more positive and forward-looking,” he said.
“I was encouraged by the plans President Biden put forward to counter anthropogenic climate change, and his general sentiment that politicians should listen to scientists,” Whalen added.