Posted by: The ocean update | August 26, 2015

Rare south Pacific nautilus spotted for the first time in 3 decades (Papua New Guinea)

a-rare-south-pacific-nautilus-seen-for-the-first-time-in-3-decadesAugust 26th, 2015 (Jonathan Edwards). It might be the rarest animal in the world. Peter Ward is a biologist at the University of Washington who this July came across the Allonautilus scrobiculatus species of nautilus in the waters off Papua New Guinea after not having seen one for about three decades.

One scientist says it might be the “rarest animal in the world,” and he’s just seen it in the South Pacific three decades after his first sighting.

What are the chances of finding a super-rare creature in the wild twice in your life — 30 years apart? University of Washington wildlife researcher Peter Ward set out to sneak a peak at marine biodiversity around Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific.

Together with his colleagues, he suspended fish and chicken meat on a pole and sunk the alluring snacks about 500 to 1,300 feet (150 to 400 meters) below surface, hoping to attract nautiluses in the area.

What Peter Ward and fellow ocean explorers didn’t expect was to catch a glimpse of an elusive creature last seen about three decades ago.

And yet this was precisely what happened

The fish and the chicken meat used as bait by the University of Washington biologist and his colleagues got the attention of your regular ocean dwellers, but also proved to be of interest to rare slimy nautilus belonging to a species dubbed Allonautilus scrobiculatus.

This nautilus species was first documented in 1984 by Peter Wand and a colleague named Bruce Saunders, also in the waters off the coast of Papua New Guinea. It was sighted again in 1986 and then disappeared without a trace until this year’s July.

The Allonautilus scrobiculatus specimen caught on film by Peter Wand was documented off of Ndrova Island together with other nautiluses.

The creature is incredibly rare. In fact, the wildlife researcher suspects it only populates the waters around Papua New Guinea and that, because of pollution, it is now in danger of going extinct. “It’s only near this tiny island,” says Peter Wand.

What distinguishes Allonautilus scrobiculatus from its siblings is the appearance of its shell. “It has this thick, hairy, slimy covering on its shell. When we first saw that, we were astounded,” the University of Washington researcher explains.

Nautiluses are living fossils, Peter Wand says

Nautiluses have been around for many millennia now and, as surprising as this may sound, the anatomy of modern specimens is not very different to that of their ancestors. Mind you, fossil evidence indicate the shape of their shell is about 500 million years old.

Because they like to keep to themselves and live in the deep ocean, nautiluses are not easy to find and study. All researchers know is that they are related to squid and cuttlefish, that they can only survive at very precise depths and temperatures, and that they are expert scavengers.




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