Scientists find extremely rare nautilus for the first time in 30 years

Biologists diving off the coast of Papua New Guinea have discovered a rare species of nautilus that hasn't been observed in the wild for over 30 years.

Ian Marsh | Aug 26, 2015

The last time biologist Peter Ward spotted a specimen of Allonautilus scrobiculatus, a rare species of nautilus that many believed were extinct, Ronald Regan was still the president. According to a press release from the University of Washington, however, after a recentexpeditionto an island in the South Pacific,the nautilus is alive and well.

The nautilus, a shelled mollusk with close linksto squid and cuttlefish, was discoveredoff of Ndrova Island in Papua New Guinea. The shellfishcomes from a long line of cephalopodsand is known by many as a 'living fossil' for its unchanged body featuresover the years some nautilus fossils date back over 500 million years.

Wardrevealedthat only two people had ever seen the nautilus species before the recent spotting. A colleague discovered the first specimen in 1984, and Ward sightedanother a few weeks after. The two biologists gatheredseveral individualsfor research when they noticed how different the gills, jaws, shell shape, and male reproductive organs were from other known nautilus species.

While most nautiluses appear to have evolved little in the last 500 million years, Allonautilus revealed that many of the changes occurred inside the shell.Ward also noticed a strange, slimy, hairy coating on the outside of the nautilus's shell.

Ward and a team of 30 researchersset up baited traps and high-speed cameras to filmthe nautilus at a depth of about 600 feet. A solitary hunter, the nautilus migrates between hunting groundsin search of food. Illegal fishing and mining have placed considerable pressure on the curious animals, and serious efforts must be undertaken to protect the rare nautilus.

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