Rare nautilus spotted in the South Pacific

A team of scientists from the University of Washington have spotted a nautilus so rare that it hasn’t been seen in over 30 years.

Allonautilus scrobiculatus, a rare species of nautilus that many believed were extinct, hadn’t been spotted for over 30 years. According to a press release from the University of Washington, however, after a recent expedition to an island in the South Pacific, biologist Peter Ward has confirmed the nautilus is alive and well.

The nautilus, a shelled cephalopod with close links to squid and cuttlefish, was found off of Ndrova Island in Papua New Guinea. The nautilus is a relic of the past and is known by many as a ‘living fossil.” According to Ward, some nautilus fossils are over 500 million years old.

Ward explained that there were only two people to ever see Allonautilus scrobiculatus before the recent spotting. A colleague found the first specimen in 1984, and Ward spotted another a few weeks later. The two scientists collected several individuals for research when they noticed their strange gills, jaws, shell shape, and male reproductive organs. They were unlike any other nautilus ever seen.

It doesn’t seem like nautiluses have changed much in past 500 million years, but Allonautilus revealed that much of the creature’s evolution occurred inside its shell. Ward also noticed a bizarre, slimy, hairy coating on the outside of the nautilus’s shell.

Ward and a crew of 30 researchers set up baited traps and high-speed cameras to capture the nautilus on film at a depth of about 600 feet. A solitary predator, the nautilus rarely visits the same hunting grounds twice. Commercial fishing and mining have put considerable pressure on the strange animals, and the team of scientists wants to learn as much about the rare species as possible.

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