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All About the Nautilus: The Living Fossil


Interestingly enough, there are creatures in this world that have lived years before the dinosaurs and have still managed to survive to this day. Surprise, surprise! That’s exactly what we’ll be talking about in this article: the Nautilus––a creature believed to have been roaming the deep blue ocean for 500 million years––an extensive history that has warranted itself the nickname “The Living Fossil.”

What do they look like?

In the name of all that is holy––and of science––nautiluses are invertebrates, cephalopods, and mollusks, and are closely related to the octopus, cuttlefish, and squid. The latter three animals mentioned are all cephalopods, a species wherein the nautilus is the only one with a visible shell. Frankly enough, not only are their shells a work of art, but it also provides the protection they so want and need. If push comes to shove, all the nautilus really has to do is to withdraw, get inside the shell, and seal it closed. Now you see why they’ve survived hundreds of millions of years, huh?

Talking more about their shells, they can actually reach up to 8-10 inches in diameter. White and brown are its typical colors and are found respectively on the underside and the upper side of the shell. If you think just as hard as its shell, then you understand that this shade of coloring helps the nautilus blend with its surroundings.

How does the Nautilus move?

One fascinating thing about the nautilus is its buoyancy––basically its ability to float. An adult nautilus has a number of chambers to, for example, tuck its soft body in. The rest of the chambers are ballast tanks that help the nautilus float or, in scientific terms, maintain buoyancy. When it closely approaches the surface, the chambers are eventually filled with gas and, when it’s time, the nautilus can flood the chambers through the siphuncle (a duct) with water to sink to the bottom.

If you think its floating system is cool, then wait until you hear about how it goes forward. Similar to all cephalopods, they swim through the water using their siphons––a part of their chambered shell that allows water to be pushed in and out. The nautilus was using jet propulsions before jet propulsions were even cool!

Similar to their tentacled brothers and sisters, the nautilus actually has more tentacles than the squid, octopus, and cuttlefish. Chambered nautiluses can have about 90 thin tentacles. Good thing they’re thin or I’ll have ocean nightmares in my sleep.

But why is that the case? Why have nightmares when you can have Gage Beasley’s Lifelike Nautilus Soft Stuffed Plush Toy instead so you can dream better and sleep tighter? There’s a big chance you won’t get to touch or even see what a nautilus looks like in person––or how beautiful its shell really is. However, you can get as close as you like with this stuffed plush toy! From the eyes and all 90 of its thin tentacles to the details of the shell, there’s no need to go to the middle of the ocean and scour 2,500 feet deep to find one.

Gage Beasley’s Lifelike Nautilus Soft Stuffed Plush Toy

In fairness, this plush toy looks like the cuddliest thing in the world. While not everyone fancies themselves the sea, there’s a bit of assurance that everyone’s curiosity is piqued with creatures like the nautilus––and what better way to commemorate these beautiful creatures by letting them rest on your bed and, if by the name of magic, uses its jet propulsor.

How does the Nautilus reproduce?

Even though the nautiluses have lived for more than millions of years, their lifespans can range up to 15 to 20 years––making them the longest-living in the cephalopod family. To become sexually mature, they normally take 10 to 15 years and must move to warmer tropical waters to mate. Here’s where it gets a little complicated.

Yes, the nautiluses mate sexually––but not how you think. The male transfers his sperm packet to the female using a modified tentacle called the ‘spadix.’ Eventually so, the female produces between 10 to 20 eggs each year! However, the females don’t drop it in one fell swoop––they typically last throughout the year, distributing the eggs one by one. As for the eggs, it can take up to a year before they hatch.

What is the Nautilus’ Distribution and Conservation Status?

The nautilus is like most of us––ones who thrive in dimly lit areas. For them, however, they prefer tropical and warm waters of the Indo-Pacific region around southeast Asia and Australia. Just like many species of aquatic animals, the nautilus spends most of its days lingering the ocean’s depth at around 900 to 2,300 feet deep. During the night, it floats ever so slowly towards 250-feet deep coral reef slopes for food.

 

They’re very timid animals much like the whale sharks. However, they’ve already been marked as a threatened or endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature or the IUCN. Threats such as over-harvesting, habitat loss, and even climate change have caused this unfortunate dilemma. Ocean acidification, a harmful climate change-related issue, has slowly crept upon these nautiluses’ lives––affecting their abilities to build their calcium carbonate shell.

In countries such as the Philippines, the nautilus population is declining because of the worldwide phenomenon that is over-fishing. They are caught in traps and sold however in which way desired: live specimens, meat, or in just the shell. Aforementioned, the shells are as beautiful as any shell you find on the sand. These shells are used as designs for handicrafts and a multitude of jewelry. The meat is consumed while the live animals are either given to aquariums or examined in science laboratories.

Unfortunately, the nautilus is vulnerable to over-fishing because of their slow reproduction and development rates. If anything, the nautilus population is losing more than it can gain.

Conclusion:

These creatures aren’t as weird as you thought they’d be, huh? For something that has lived up to 500 million years, the nautilus has, to be fair, adapted very well to the food chain and its habitat. It isn’t the cutest of animals, yes, but it is one of the most beautiful sea creatures to grace the ocean. Not to mention its jet propulsors! If Aquaman was a sea creature, the nautilus is a debatable one to throw out there––just minus the spear, fighting abilities, and Jason Momoa’s good looks. But, really, that’s beside the point.

Before this article ends, this should be a great avenue to support nautilus research and help these endangered creatures. Avoid purchasing products made out of the shell at all costs. The nautilus is one of the few species that have fought well and bravely to survive all the way from the age of dinosaurs to today.

 

Cheers!

~GB 

 

 


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