• The creature was described using an "exceptionally well-preserved" fossil
  • It marks the "oldest definitive vampyropod": Researchers
  • It is the "first and only vampyropod" to have 10 functional arms

A pair of researchers have named a newly described vampyropod species after U.S. President Joe Biden. The extinct species, said to be the ancestors of cephalopods such as octopuses and vampire squids, had 10 arms instead of eight.

The species was described using a 328-million-year-old fossil that was discovered in Montana and was donated to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in 1988, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) noted in a news release.

Vampyropoda is a clade of soft-bodied cephalopods that includes octopuses and vampire squids. They aren't really well-represented in the fossil record because their soft bodies don't usually make "good fossils." However, the one that led to the species' identification was actually "exceptionally well-preserved," the researchers wrote in a paper published in Nature Communications.

The creature marks a new genus and species. The researchers named it Syllipsimopodi bideni. The genus name Syllipsimopodi is derived from the Greek words "syllípsimos," which stands for "prehensile," and "pódi," meaning "foot."

"The name prehensile-foot is chosen because this is the oldest known cephalopod to develop suckers, allowing the arms, which are modifications of the molluscan foot, to better grasp prey and other objects," the researchers explained.

The name "bideni" is used to celebrate President Biden as he had just been inaugurated at the time of the submission.

The age of the specimen makes the Syllipsimopodi bideni the "oldest definitive vampyropod and crown coleoid," the researchers said. This also extends the group's fossil record by 82 million years.

Another interesting feature of the species is that it had 10 "sucker-bearing" arms. It is the "first and only vampyropod" to have 10 "functional appendages," explained lead author Christopher Whalen of AMNH.

By comparison, all the other vampyropods have either "reduced arm pair II to filaments" or lost them completely.

"The arm count is one of the defining characteristics separating the 10-armed squid and cuttlefish line (Decabrachia) from the eight-armed octopus and vampire squid line (Vampyropoda)," Whalen said. "However, all previously reported fossil vampyropods preserving the appendages only have 8 arms, so this fossil is arguably the first confirmation of the idea that all cephalopods ancestrally possessed ten arms."

Octopus/Squid/Cephalopod Tentacles
Representation. Pixabay