Hey there, island girls! Today, I’m writing a blog that may seem a little “left field” compared to my usual weekly articles. Here’s a fact about me you might not know: I love learning new things about random sea creatures! Yep, there ya have it… And because of this, I have a super eclectic database of sea creature “facts” stashed away in my brain, just waiting to share. But, since “sea creature facts” are not really a popular dinner conversation with my family (insert teen/pre-teen eye rolls here), I have to save these to share with the people that get me the most… My incredible community of island girls. That’s you!! So, today we are diving deep into the wonderful world of the Nautilus, a sea creature that has been around for over 480 million years, long before the dinosaurs roamed the Earth. With its beautiful shell and unique features, it’s no wonder the Nautilus has been captivating the hearts of humans for centuries. So grab your snorkel and let's explore the clear blue Pacific, to meet my favorite living link to the ancient past!
Heads up: my random sea creature knowledge for The Nautilus was very limited, so I went above and beyond for you with some extensive research into its history. Because everyone deserves to have their story told, especially this amazing Tentacled Time Traveler. So, sit back and enjoy!
Did You Know? Cool Facts about the Nautilus
History of the Nautilus
The Nautilus has been around for over 480 million years, which means this incredible sea creature can take you on a journey from prehistoric times to the present day. She is one of only a few creatures that have traveled through time to witness the evolution of humans and other modern-day species, the rise and fall of civilizations, and even witnessed the birth of stars in distant galaxies. Wild! Today they are mainly found in the western Pacific Ocean and coastal areas of the Indian Ocean.
Nautilus is a Cousin to the Octopus
The Nautilus, is actually a cousin to the octopus. Belonging to the cephalopod family, these soft-bodied creatures live inside an intricately chambered shell. With more than 90 tentacles, the Nautilus has the most tentacles of any cephalopod! But unlike its relatives, the Nautilus's tentacles have grooves and ridges instead of suckers. These grooves and ridges are coated with a sticky secretion that helps the Nautilus grip food and pass it to its mouth.
The Nautilus Shell: More Than Just a Pretty Face
The Nautilus shell is not only a pretty dress print, but it also serves as the creature's home and protection. The shell is divided into multiple compartments, with the Nautilus residing in the largest chamber. Connected by a tube called a siphuncle, these chambers help control the creature's buoyancy by pumping fluids in and out. Talk about a natural submarine!
Eyes in the Dark
Despite having simple, pinhole-type eyes, the Nautilus is quite adept at navigating the ocean depths. It can only sense dark and light, but it can perceive water depth, current directions, and speeds to help keep its body upright. Additionally, the Nautilus has a highly developed sense of smell that aids in searching for food and finding mates.
Jet Propulsion: Swimming with Style
The Nautilus swims using jet propulsion by expelling water from its mantle cavity through a siphon located near its head. By adjusting the direction of the siphon, the Nautilus can swim forward, backward, or sideways. Now that's some serious underwater maneuvering!
Avoiding Predators by Day
To avoid predators during the day, Nautiluses linger along deep reef slopes as deep as 2,200 feet (700 m). When threatened, they can use a hood like a trapdoor to seal themselves inside their shell for protection.
Nautiluses migrate to shallower depths of about 230 feet (70 m) to feed and lay their eggs at night. Sporting their beautiful red-striped, cream-colored exteriors, they're quite the sight to behold as they roam the ocean depths.
While most cephalopods are short-lived, the Nautilus may live for over 20 years! They reach maturity between 12 and 15 years of age, making them quite the elders of the ocean.
The Nautilus Reproduction Cycle
Female Nautiluses lay relatively few eggs, only between 10 and 18 per year. These eggs, which are similar in size, shape, and appearance to a bulb of garlic, take about 12 months to hatch.
Shell Growth and Identification
As a Nautilus grows, it gains more living space by building new chambers connected to the old ones. Adult shells have 30 chambers in total. The Nautilus is the only cephalopod with an external shell, and much like zebras, they can be individually identified based on their striped shell patterns. Their stripes are fixed but stretch out as they grow.
The tentacles of a Nautilus have no suckers or hooks but hold prey with a sticky secretion. A nautilus uses its sharp, beaklike mouth to break food apart and its radula (a band of tissue lined with tiny teeth) to further shred its food.
Threats to the Nautilus Population
Collectors seek out Nautilus shells for their beautiful mother-of-pearl linings and red-striped, cream-colored exteriors. In the past, beachcombers gathered only shells, but now demand for perfect shells is encouraging deep-water trapping of Nautiluses. Since these animals mature late and produce few offspring, shell collecting significantly declines Nautilus (and other mollusk) populations. In 2017, the chambered Nautilus was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Many organizations, including some aquariums, have stopped selling seashells in their gift shops to help protect these amazing creatures. This is your friendly reminder to look don’t touch during your next snorkel adventure. And if it is appropriate to take a souvenir, always be sure that the shell is empty.
So there you have it, friends! The Nautilus, a tentacled time traveler with a fascinating history, is a true wonder of the ocean. Let's do our part to protect and conserve these beautiful creatures so future generations can marvel at their unique beauty and intriguing lives.
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I hope you loved learning about this incredible sea creature as much as I loved researching it. Have a beautiful week, friends!