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Type of animal

Nautilus- Old like a dinosaurs

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    Nautilus belonging to the Nautilidae family and its modern relative can be considered the squid and its ancient one is the ammonoid. There 6 species divided into 2 genera. The most common name is chambered nautiliius for all the species belonging to the Nautiliade family. Scientists refer to these marine creatures as “living fossils” because they have survived in the same state with no other alterations for millions and millions of years. 

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    Nautiluses are related to octopus and squid and are the only cephalopod that has retained its solid shell. Nautiluses are nocturnally active predators, feeding mainly on crustaceans and small fish, which they locate using their keen sense of smell. Chambered Nautilus has a small soft body protected by a fragile shell. They move by blowing water out trough “a tube” – similar in our World with “jet propulsion” to attain speeds of over two knots. This “small tube” which is near the nautilus' tentacles expels water under pressure and is known as a siphon.

nautilus jet propulsion

    Chambered Nautilus is a cephalopod. Generally, it looks like other cephalopods, having a prominent head and tentacles. But here is a difference. Nautilus has more tentacles than other cephalopods, usually up to ninety. Also, its tentacles are arranged into two circles, having no suckers and being undifferentiated and retractable. Nautilus pompilius passes for the largest species in the genus. A nautilus form from western Australia may reach 26,8 cm in diameter and the smallest species is Nautilus macromphalus and it usually measures only 16 cm. The first cephalopod appeared around 550 million years ago during the early Paleozoic era. The discovered ammonite fossils had shells between 6 to 9 metres long when they were not uncoiled.

    The Nautilidae family began with Cenoceras in the Late Triassic and in Jurassic Cenoceras started to become more complex. Its looks and form makes many people to think that nautilus is a living fossil. It is known that it is remain unchanged for 400 million years and during the prehistoric times 10,000 different species of nautilus lived in the ocean darkness. Only a small handful survives today. This mollusk is closely related to other cephalopods such as cuttlefish, squid and octopus.


    The exterior shell offers the cephalopod protection, so that when threatened it can withdraw his whole body into the shell and immediately seal it with a “ hoody”. The main enemies on its list include: turtles and octopuses.
    An adult can have a shell that measure up to 25 cm. The beautiful coloration of the shell ranges from white to orange shades with stripes and black coils. Even though this cephalopod is also born with 4 chambers in its shell, during its lifetime, these chambers develop into another 30 chambers. It has a clean-cut head and tentacles (around 90 of them), however they do not have suckers like the other cephalopods.
They also have 2 pair of gills and the mouth resembles a beak. Due to this beak and because it has a radula( rows covered with small teeth) they tear up the prey before ingesting it.

    It spends its most of time in deep water, especially its daylight hours at depths of about 1,800 feet. However, some have been spotted in shallow waters, but mostly in the southern hemisphere. Recent studies revealed the fact that they migrate daily, due to their need of finding better feeding areas, or because they are trying to stay clear of predators. At night it migrates to shallower waters, feeding among the coral reefs. It is found throughout the Pacific and Indian oceans. Actually, it lives in tropical waters extending from southern Japan to the Great Barrier Reef and from the Andaman Sea east to Fiji.

    Don’t let their small size fool you, these tiny predators like to hunt, especially during the night. Since they cannot rely on their sight, they rely on smell and this is how they catch  crabs, lobsters and all sorts of corpses they find in their path.
Nautilus is known as an opportunistic predator and as a scavenger. It eats molts of hermit crabs, lobsters and any kind of carrion.

    Scientists say that humans are loving the nautilus to death and its existence is in danger. Neil H Landman, a biologist and paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History said: "In certain areas, it's threatened with extermination".

    Based on various studies, scientists have observed how the mating process occurs. The male uses a special tentacle to “send off” the sperm into the mantle cavity of the female Nautilus. Then the female finds a way to attach the eggs to a rocky surface and leaves them there to hatch and develop. This usually takes about 8-12 months. The reproduction process happens only once a year for these cephalopods.
    Age estimates for seven animals marked and recaptured between 45 and 355 days after release range from 14.5 to 17.2 years. These data indicate that the life-span of Nautilus may exceed 20 years and that its life strategy is very different from that of other living cephalopods.

Interesting facts
•    Nautilus is the only cephalopod which has an external shell
•    Its tentacles have no hooks or suckers, holding its prey with sticky glue
•    It may live more than 20 years (it is a very long time comparing to other cephalopods)
•    Nautilus population tends to be 25 percent female and 75 percent male. The reason is unknown
•    It has poor eyesight. It use its eyes to distinguish dark from light
•    Its main predators are turtles, sharks and octopuses. If it is in danger, it hides in the shell and closes it with leathery hood
•    It mates once per year
•    It is known as a living fossil because it is unchanged for millions of years. It is the only living descendent of ocean creatures that thrived in seas 500 million years ago
•    Nautilus is even older than the dinosaurs
•    Their shell is considered a prize possession for collectors
•    Nautilus doesn’t enjoy water temperatures that rise above 25 degrees
•    The 1st nuclear-powered submarine in the world was named after this cephalopod. This was the USS Nautilus
•    The Nautilus was also an inspiration for a poem entitled  “The Chambered Nautilus” written by Oliver Wendell Holmes
•    An interesting fact to know about this small creature is that even though it has 30 chambers when it has reached adulthood, the actual critter always resides in the newest and biggest chamber of all
•    Another fun fact about the nautilus is that it moves by jet-propulsion.
•    Nautilus pompilius is considered one of the largest of its species
•    In several countries exporting the Nautilus’s shell has been prohibited
•    Did you know that Nautilus eggs are about the same size as ping pong ball and are encased in a clear membrane?

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Pics - Nautilus pompilius, Bohol Sea, Philippines (Photo by Gregory Barord)

Published by Cristian Corina Florentina


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