The Allonautilus could be the rarest creature on Earth, said Peter Ward, who made the discovery.
Biologist Peter Ward has made an amazing discovery: he’s seen a nautilus that has been spotted in 30 years.
Ward, a biologist at the University of Washington, spotted the Allonautilus scrobiculatus off the coast of Papau New Guinea this July, a species that hadn’t been seen in decades, according to a CNET report.
The nautilus is often called a “living fossil,” and it is related to squid, octopus, and cuttlefish, and has been around for about 500 million years ago.
Ward and a team of researchers had baited a stick with fish and chicken meat and then suspended the bait at depths ranging from 500 feet all the way down to 1,300 feet, filming whatever happened around them.
Allonautilus was one of many that came out to see what was on offer. It was even whacked repeatedly by the tail of a sunfish that had also come by, but it stuck around for two hours.
Several nautiluses were captured at a depth of 600 feet. This creature prefers lower depths because they like colder water and therefore stay away from the surface during the day, coming up at night to feed when surface waters are cooler.
The nautiluses were collected and put in chilled water to keep them comfortable, and researchers collected samples before returning them to the sea.
Nautiluses are threatened because of their unique spiral chambered shells, which are often mined and has resulted in some populations becoming extinct. If the practice is unchecked, stated an article from Ward’s University of Washington, it could threaten to turn living fossils into actual fossils. The article notes that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide in September whether to make nautiluses a protected species.