Rejoice, lovers of cute little externally shelled cephalopods! The Monterey Bay Aquarium has captured what could be the first-ever video footage of baby nautiluses hatching. The sight may get one step closer to understanding a mysterious family of sea creatures that's been thriving and surviving mass extinctions since the Triassic.
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The video above, just released by aquarists at The Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA, showcases several baby chambered nautiluses (Nautilus pompilius) hatching from their eggs after developing for over a year in captivity. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is attempting to hatch 150 of the chambered nautiluses to not only study their reproductive behavior, but hopefully their entire lives, which may span over 20 years.
"No one has followed the entire life cycle of a nautilus in the wild," Ellen Umeda, an aquarist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium told Nerdist. Thats's what makes these fragile hatchlings special, even in captivity. "In fact, no one has seen an egg in the wild."
For those only familiar with "Nautilus" as a name for Captain Nemo's submarine, it is also a family of animals made up of two genera and six known species. This particular species, the chambered nautilus, generally hangs out at around 1,000 feet below the ocean's surface, on the seafloor and near reefs off the coasts of Japan, Australia, and Micronesia. The small curled creatures are notable for their primitive pinhole eyes, their cirri (the tentacle-like structures protruding from their faces that would make H.P. Lovecraft giddy with inspiration), and of course, their striped shells that give them their signature C-shape.
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That shell not only protects a nautilus's organs, it also allows the animal to adjust its buoyancy when its chambers are either filled with, or depleted of, water -- just like Nemo's submarine. The chambered nautilus can probably only descend to about 2,000 feet however, as it's estimated that pressures below that depth would implode its shell.
On another shell-related note, it may be best to avoid ever buying decorative nautilus shells. The nautilus isn't necessarily endangered, but it's listed as possibly threatened if trade isn't limited. That is probably another reason The Monterey Bay Aquarium, which has a mission to "inspire conservation of the ocean," is keeping these 150 specimens in captivity. Hopefully they'll be able to go the distance and be here in 2037, after teaching we humans a bit more about how to avoid mass extinctions.
"There are still many unanswered questions about nautilus hatchlings" notes Umeda. "What depth are the hatchlings found at? What do they eat? What temperature should the water be...The development of these animals from quarter sized versions of the adults to adulthood is still very much uncharted territory, which I find intriguing. Working with these hatchlings will certainly be challenging, but hopefully, we’ll gain a better understanding of their life cycle."
What do you think about this nautilus hatching video? Are you inspired to do some ocean conservation now? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!
Images: Monterey Bay Aquarium