Sea Creature Feature of the Week: Chambered Nautilus

Science | The Chambered Nautilus is one of six nautilus species that live in the open ocean’s deep waters. They are one of the few shelled invertebrates that live in open water as opposed to the bottom of a reef and the only species of cephalopod with exterior shells. Nautilus have been around for over 480 million years, predating the dinosaurs. They are found in the Indo-Pacific seas and may grow to be 6 to 8 inches long.

The nautilus pumps fluids into and out of its shell chamber to control its buoyancy and allow it to “hover” in the water. As the nautilus grows, it creates new chambers that link to the existing ones, eventually reaching 30 chambers. Unlike other cephalopods, nautilus tentacles do not have suckers and can have up to 90 appendages. They eat by engulfing their tentacles around their prey and drawing them within. When threatened, they can enclose themselves within their shell for safety. A nautilus has a highly developed sense of smell to aid in its quest for food and mates in the deep ocean, and its basic eyes can only detect dark and light.

Conservation efforts have not been assessed by the IUCN Red List and are generally unknown, however, they are targeted and overharvested for their shells. Tourists and shell collectors acquire these shells as souvenirs or for use in jewelry and home décor, which has resulted in an upsurge in international trade. There is little to no protection and understanding and monitoring the populations is a critical first step toward conservation.

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