Nautilus is an ancient sea creature distantly related to squid and cuttlefish. Scientists have often called them for living fossils because the unique spiral shells of the species have appeared in the fossil record over the past 500 million years. Researchers have not seen a type of this species, called Allonautilus scrobiculatus, for 30 years until now.
Scientists discovered it in the South Pacific, in waters of Papua New Guinea’s Ndrova Island. They even considered the possibility that the species is extinct since it is one of the rarest species on Earth. Now it was rediscovered by biologist Peter Ward from the University of Washington. He, together with his colleague Bruce Saunders from Bryn Mawr College, was actually the one who discovered this species for in the first time in 1984 in the same waters.
After Bruce Saunders saw the Allonautilus scrobiculatus once again in 1986 the creature seemed to have disappeared until July this year. The research team used baited poles that were suspended in the water at depths from 500 to 1.300 feet. Allonautilus scrobiculatus lives in a narrow range of ocean depth. The researchers also used cameras in order to get a footage of the creature.
Wards explained that Allonautilus scrobiculatus still preserves some nautilus features such as its shell. However it also has some distinctive features: the shape of the shell, the jaws and the gills. The most unexpected feature which makes the species particularly interesting since not many nautilus have it, was the thick, slimy hair that covers the shell. Researchers were very surprised to discover this. Ward explained:
Just like submarines, they have ‘fail depths’ where they’ll die if they go too deep, and surface waters are so warm that they usually can’t go up there. Water about 2,600 feet deep is going to isolate them.”
He also explained that this could even be the rarest animal in the world and the only place in the world where it was found is the New Guinea island. As the discoverer of this species he feels that he has a special connection with it and hopes to get the chance to see these creatures again before they disappear completely. He also believes that researchers need to find out whether there are other Allonautilus there.
Image Source: voices.nationalgeographic.com