The Rarest Creature on Earth: Slimy Nautilus, Thought Extinct, Reappears

The Rarest Creature on Earth: Slimy Nautilus, Thought Extinct, Reappears

A noted biologist catches a glimpse of a super-rare mollusc twice in his life - thirty years apart.

You have a better chance at being struck by lightning twice; or winning the lotto on your birthday. Marine biologist Peter Ward, it seems, is just a very lucky guy: he has caught a glimpse of the extremely elusive, supposedly extinct, Allonautilus scobiculatus twice in his life. The first time was in 1984, more than 30 years ago.

"This could be the rarest animal in the world," says Ward. Indeed: nautiluses (or nautili) are already an uncommon sight, and they are thought to be going extinct the world over.

Nautiluses are considered living fossils - they have shown up in the fossil record, unchanged from their modern incarnation, for more than half a billion years. They're the paleontology equivalent of that photograph from the end of the Shining.

We're usually pretty happy when things don't look just like they did back then.

Sometime before than half-billion mark, they separated from their distant cousins, who went on to become squid and adorable octopuses.

Ward found the creature in Papua New Guinea, home to a few species of nautilus, not to mention about 7% of the world's biodiversity. He and his team baited a stick with fish and chicken meat in order to study nautilus populations, and who should show up but Allonautilus!

In the gallery below you can compare the Allonautilus to a fellow nautilus, the more common Nautilus pompilius. The latter has more white on its shell, while our rarer friend is covered with furry, yellow slime, one of its most distinguishing features.

According to the researchers, they also attracted a hungry sunfish, that tried to get the spiral-shelled molluscs out of the way. "For the next two hours, the sunfish just kept whacking them with its tail." It must be so annoying to have a sunfish as your neighbor.

Source: CNet, University of Washington

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Closest thing to an alien I've seen.

Are we sure that Peter Ward and this Mollusc are not one and the same person? It's just...i never see them in the same room at the same time.

Hm, something is also telling me that a Jeremy Clarkson joke is in here somewhere...

Should have stay hidden. Because you can be damned sure the east will find a dish to put you in.

I like it when creatures previously thought to be extinct decide to say hello.
It makes me think about what else might be lurking around.

Don't worry. We will make sure to make it extinct. I'm very confident in the matter as we have lots of experience in the field.
But as with all things everything need to happen in order. Next on the list is currently the northern type of the Ceratotherium simum.
Then we will take care of this little fella.

Nice, I'd once like to travel there and see those as well (just a regular one would be cool already). Much more interesting than diving in murky waters in Western Europe, which is what I mostly do.

What's also funny is that they attract them from the deep using chicken suspended in a cage. God knows why a living fossil would have a preference for that.

The worlds oceans are large enough for many creatures to be completely overlooked or unseen for years at a time depending on their migration habits and other factors. I'm not surprised that an "extinct" species turns out not to be. Its still pretty awesome though.

Fun Fact: When I still made Flash Cartoons, I made a Cartoon with a Nautilus. He wasn't the main focus (The main focus was a Mouse named "Bertrum"), and he was a Cone Nautilus, not one of these Allonautilus's, but he was there.

OT: It's nice to see this thing is still alive.

Chester Rabbit:
Should have stay hidden. Because you can be damned sure the east will find a dish to put you in.

Although people eat nautiluses, one of the causes of their decline in history is because people "mine" them for the shells, often to use as jewellery or just cool ways to carry things. Nowadays it's mostly ocean acidification that's doing them in, though

The Helix Fossil lives! つ ◕_◕ ༽つPRAISE HELIX༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

Man.

7% of the worlds biodiversity. Been around for half a billion years. And they are going extinct. I'm guessing because they have smaller living areas and the oceans are turning sour.

That humans can manage to wreak so much havoc in so short a time...its just staggering.

VanQ:
The Helix Fossil lives! つ ◕_◕ ༽つPRAISE HELIX༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

And bless the messenger, O' Peter of Ward. He bringeth the word of the great Helix.

Wheres this claim that it was thought extinct coming from? None of the other articles Ive seen about it mention anything like that (apart from mentioning that it easily could go extinct due to fishing etc)

tzimize:
Man.

7% of the worlds biodiversity. Been around for half a billion years. And they are going extinct. I'm guessing because they have smaller living areas and the oceans are turning sour.

That humans can manage to wreak so much havoc in so short a time...its just staggering.

They are also fished because the glamour inside their shells can be used to make a kind of fake pearl.

Fdzzaigl:

tzimize:
Man.

7% of the worlds biodiversity. Been around for half a billion years. And they are going extinct. I'm guessing because they have smaller living areas and the oceans are turning sour.

That humans can manage to wreak so much havoc in so short a time...its just staggering.

They are also fished because the glamour inside their shells can be used to make a kind of fake pearl.

And also they're just a very old design. Sometimes a species, genus or whole family of animals will just, kind of reach an evolutionary dead end, and that's rarely a good thing with how aggressively hyper-competitive nature is. Fishing them for their shells is definitely a big problem though.

Either way, just really amazing animals. They've been around since around about the Triassic period and have survived at least two of our planet's five mass extinctions. I'm not sure if they came about before or after The Great Dying, but if they were around before, then that makes 3 mass extinctions they've managed to shrug off. These things have been around since before the first proper dinosaurs. Just, an unfathomable length of time compared to humanity.

It's great to see living fossils still kicking around. It's good to have some perspective on how young we are as a species.

 

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