A unique species of nautilus was detected for the first time in over 30 years.
It had been over 3 decades since this species of nautilus was found in the South Pacific Sea. It is a rare find alright. The singular experience of seeing the creature was dampened by the fear.
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That is that it might become extinct due to poaching by fishers. It is termed the Allonautilus scrobiculatus. And it was discovered off the coast of Papua New Guinea.
The nautilus is a kissing cousin of cuttlefish and squids. Said to be a miracle of life, its very existence is as an extant fossil of sorts. 500 million years ago, the same nautiluses were spread all over the earth.
“Before this, two humans had seen Allonautilus scrobiculatus,” said Peter Ward, a biologist at the University of Washington. “My colleague Bruce Saunders from Bryn Mawr College found Allonautilus first, and I saw them a few weeks later.”
There is a lot to study in case of this seashell-like creature. Only two sightings have been reported regarding this marine animal before this third observation. These two sightings took place way back in 1984 when Ronald Reagan was President of the United States.
Many samples were gathered for analysis. Their features differed from others of their ilk. The label of “living fossil” has been rightly earned by the nautilus. A fat, hirsute mucilage-based coating is there on its exterior.
“Some features of the nautilus — like the shell giving it the ‘living fossil’ label — may not have changed for a long time, but other parts have,” said Ward.
“It has this thick, hairy, slimy covering on its shell. When we first saw that, we were astounded.”
Allonautilus scrobiculatus off the coast of Ndrova Island in Papua New Guinea. Credit: Peter Ward
The nautilus is a master scavenger. The researchers used flesh from fish as bait to attract this nautilus. The experiment began four years ago. The movie made of the nautilus is interesting.
It shows another nautilus approaching the bait too. Then a scuffle ensues between the two regarding the food item. Finally, a sunfish came along and decided to take a swipe at the bait. It fought off the two nautiluses.
Several nautiluses were captured in cages as well. Afterwards though they were released into the ocean depths. The life duration and gender of each nautilus was determined too.
Whichever environment the nautilus is placed in, it swims close to its base. These creatures are just like submarines. However, they don’t survive in extreme depths. Different populations of nautiluses have markedly different features thanks to changes in habitat.
However, the nautilus is fast becoming an endangered species. This is thanks to extensive fishing by poachers. Several mining operations have decimated nautilus populations too. The rarity of the species make it a marine animal worth saving from the clutches of greedy seafarers.
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In fact, it could be the most precious species in the entire world. And that calls for action to preserve it from becoming extinct.