As of recently, in August, biologists have observed a rare nautilus in the South Pacific for the 1st time in over 30 years.
University of Washington professor and biologist Peter Ward saw the nautilus, which he considered to be one of the rarest marine animals worldwide. It may also be labeled as “endangered”, due to illegal fishing, which ultimately decreased the nautilus population.
This specific nautilus is named Allonautilus scrobiculatus, and it was also previously spotted in Papua New Guinea, near the coast of Ndrova Island. Moreover, it is a tropical sea mollusk, which displays a spiral shell with white and light-brown stripes on the outside and many air-filled chambers on the inside. It is specific to the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
The nautilus is a small creature related to the squid, the octopus and the cuttlefish. Their legacy dates back to ancient times and they are considered “living fossils”, as it’s said they have been present in their marine environment for approximately 500 million years, according to shells that have been found in fossil records.
Prof. Ward and his colleague Bruce Saunders gathered and observed several Allonautilus specimens, and their analysis pointed out the fact that they were quite different compared to other nautilus species, according to their characteristics including jaws, shell shape and male reproductive systems, respectively.
Professor Ward was stunned at first when he observed a slimy covering on the Allonautilus’ shell.
In order to monitor this specific nautilus, when the biologist returned to Papua New Guinea, set up a “bait on a stick” technique, which would lure the critter, whereas the activity around the bait was filmed for 12 hours.
In one of the recordings from one night in the Ndrova Island area an Allonautilus was spotted, leading to Prof. Ward’s astonishment, as he hadn’t seen one in approximately three decades.
Moreover, the biologists also intended to capture some specimens, therefore they set up bait traps, and managed to collect some of them, for the purpose of gathering mucous, tissue and shell samples for further analysis. They also measured the nautiluses, before releasing them in the ocean again.
Ward has declared his intention of looking for the Allonautilus in other marine areas as well, in stating:
“This could be the rarest animal in the world. We need to know if Allonautilus is anywhere else, and we won’t know until we go out there and look.”
Photo Credits washington.edu