Fascinating Nautilus Facts (2023)

The chambered nautilus (Nautilus pompilius) is a large, mobile cephalopod which is called a "living fossil" and has been the subject of poetry, artwork, math, and jewelry. They have even inspired the names of submarines and exercise equipment. These animals have been around for about 500 million years—even before the dinosaurs.

Fast Facts: Chambered Nautilus

  • Scientific Name: Nautilus pompilius
  • Common Name: Chambered nautilus
  • Basic Animal Group: Invertebrate
  • Size: 8–10 inches in diameter
  • Weight: Maximum of 2.8 pounds
  • Lifespan: 15–20 years
  • Diet:Carnivore
  • Habitat: Oceans in the Indo-Pacific region
  • Conservation Status: Not Evaluated


Nautiluses are invertebrates, cephalopods, and mollusks related to octopus, cuttlefish, and squid. Of all the cephalopods, nautiluses are the only animal to have a visible shell. The shell is not only beautiful, but it also provides protection. The nautilus can withdraw into the shell and seal it closed with a fleshy trapdoor called a hood.

Nautilus shells can reach up to 8–10 inches in diameter. They are white on the underside with brown stripes on its upper side. This coloration helpsthe nautilus blend into its surroundings.

The shell of an adult nautilus contains over 30 chambers which form as the nautilus grows, following a genetically-hardwired shape known as a logarithmic spiral.The nautilus's soft body is located in the largest, outermost chamber; the remainder of the chambers are ballast tanks that help the nautilus maintain buoyancy.

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When a nautilus approaches the surface, its chambers fill with gas. A duct called the siphuncle connects the chambers so that, when necessary, the nautilus can flood the chambers with water to make itself sink again. This water enters the mantle cavity and is expelled through a siphon.

Chambered nautiluses have many more tentaclesthan their squid, octopus and cuttlefish relatives. They have about 90 thin tentacles, which do not have suckers. Squid and cuttlefish have two and octopus have none.

Fascinating Nautilus Facts (1)


These several species are in the Nautilidae family, including five species in the genus Nautilus (Nautilus belauensis, N. macromphalus, N. pompilius, N. repertus, and N. stenomphelus) and two species in the genus Allonautilus (Allonautilus perforatus and A.scrobiculatus). The largest of the species is N. repertus (the emperor nautilus), with a shell measuring from 8 to 10 inches in diameter and soft body parts weighing nearly 2.8 pounds. The smallest is the bellybutton nautilus (N. macromphalus), which only grows 6–7 inches. ​

Allonautilus was recentlyre-discoveredin the South Pacific after thought extinct for some 30 years. These animals have a distinctive, fuzzy-looking shell.

(Video) Facts: The Nautilus

Habitat and Distribution

Nautilus pompilius is only found in the dimly lit tropical and warm temperate waters of the Indo-Pacific region in southeast Asia and Australia. It is the most widespread of any of the nautiluses and like most of the species, it spends most of the day at depths up to 2,300 feet. At night it migrates slowly up the coral reef slopes to forage for food at about 250 feet deep.

Diet and Behavior

Nautiluses are primarily scavengers of dead crustaceans, fish, and other organisms, even other nautiluses. However, they do prey on (living) hermit crabs and dig in the soft sediments of the sea floor for small prey pieces.

Nautiluses have poor vision with two large but primitive pinhole eyes. Under each eye is a fleshy papilla about a tenth of an inch long called a rhinophore that the nautilus uses to detect its prey. When a dead fish or crustacean is detected by the nautilus, it extends its thin tentacles and swims towards the prey.The nautilus grips the prey with its tentacles and then rips it into shreds with their beak before passing it to the radula.

A nautilus moves by jet propulsion. Water enters the mantle cavity andis forced out the siphon to propel the nautilus backward, forward, or sideways.

Reproduction and Offspring

With a lifespan of 15–20 years, nautiluses are the longest-living cephalopods. They take from10 to more than 15 years to become sexually mature. Nautiluses must move into warmer tropical waters to mate, and then they mate sexually when the male transfers his sperm packet to the female using a modified tentacle called a spadix.

The female produces between 10 and 20 eggs each year, laying them one at a time, a process that may last throughout the year. It can take up to a year for the eggs to hatch.

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Fascinating Nautilus Facts (2)

Evolutionary History

Long before dinosaurs roamed the Earth, giant cephalopods swam in the sea.The nautilus is the oldest cephalopod ancestor. It hasn't changed much over the last 500 million years, hence the name living fossil.

At first, prehistoric nautiloids had straight shells, but these evolved into a coiled shape. Prehistoric nautiluses had shells up to 10 feet in size. They dominated the seas, as fish hadn't yet evolved to compete with them for prey.The nautilus's main prey was likely a type of arthropod called the trilobite.


None of the nautiluses are listed as threatened or endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, ongoing threats to nautiluses are recognized, including over-harvesting, habitat loss, and climate change.One climate change-related issue is ocean acidification, which affects the nautilus's ability to build its calcium carbonate-based shell.

Nautilus populations in some areas (such as in the Philippines) are declining due to over-fishing.Nautiluses are caught in baited traps to be sold as live specimens, meat, and shells. Shells are used to make handicrafts, buttons, and jewelry, while the meat is consumed and live animals are collected for aquariums and scientific research.According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than half amillion nautiluseswereimported into the U.S. from 2005–2008.

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Intensive nautilus fisheries are short-lived and devastating to local populations. Within about a decade or two, the locations become commercially nonviable. Nautiluses are especially vulnerable to over-fishing due to their slow development and reproduction rates. Populations also seem to be isolated, with little gene flow between populations and less able to recover from a loss.

Although the IUCN has not yet reviewed nautilus for inclusion on the Red List due to lack of data, in January 2017, the entire family of chambered nautiluses (Nautilidae) was listed in the U.S. CITES Appendix II. This means that CITES documentation will be required for import and re-export of these species and items made from them.

Saving the Nautilus

To help nautiluses, you can support nautilus research and avoid purchasing products made of a nautilus shell.These include the shellsthemselves as well as "pearls" and other jewelry made from the nacre from the nautilus's shell.

Fascinating Nautilus Facts (3)



What are some cool facts about nautilus? ›

Cool facts

As a nautilus grows, it gains more living space by building new chambers connected to the old ones; adult shells have 30 chambers. The nautilus is the only cephalopod with an external shell. Much like zebras, nautiluses can be individually identified based on their striped shell patterns.

What is unique about the nautilus shell? ›

Unlike its color-changing cousins, though, the soft-bodied nautilus lives inside its hard external shell. The shell itself has many closed interior chambers or “compartments.” The animal resides in the shell's largest chamber, while the other chambers function like the ballast tanks of a submarine.

What are 2 characteristics of a nautilus? ›

The soft-bodied nautilus lives inside a hard, chambered shell. It uses the chambers to pump air and water in and out of its shell, creating jet propulsion to thrust itself backwards and to make turns. They possess a siphon tube, known as a hyponome, which runs the length of the shell.

How many eyes does a nautilus have? ›

However, the tentacles do have grooves and ridges that help the nautilus grip objects and prey. It has two eyes, one on each side of its body, which are quite primitive and simple compared to those of other cephalopods.

Do nautilus have hearts? ›

The only cephalopod without three hearts is the Nautilus, a famous outlier for most cephalopod standards. Due to their smaller size and chill lifestyle, the Nautilus only use a single heart to keep them going- just like us, humans!

Does a nautilus have a brain? ›

Their brains contain two discrete lobes dedicated to learning and memory, the vertical and frontal lobe complexes, which display vertebrate-like properties57 and are unique among invertebrates. Nautilus brains are relatively simpler, containing fewer lobes and fewer neurons than coleoid brains.

What is the nautilus a symbol of? ›

It is a symbol of nature's grace in growth, expansion, and renewal. It is also a symbol of order amidst chaos as reflected in its spiral precision. As the nautilus grows, it does so in direct proportion to its needs and with geometric precision.

What is the golden rule of Nautilus shell? ›

Meisner (2014) alternatively suggests that the Nautilus shell spiral expands by a golden ratio proportion, not by a full revolution as the common myth claims but by 1.618 every 180°. This implies that his specific Nautilus specimen has an aspect ratio of 1.272 (the square root of the golden ratio).

How are the eyes of a nautilus unique? ›

Nautilus does not possess a camera eye but rather, a pinhole eye, which does not have lens or cornea. The eye can be subdivided into modules such as photoreceptor cells, retina, lens and cornea. The pinhole eye of Nautilus provides a unique example to explore how these modules evolve.

Are nautiluses intelligent? ›

The nautilus' brain is surprisingly complex: it can be trained, and it has good short- and long-term memory. “The Nautilus has up to 40 dedicated, obvious lobes in its brain,” Dr. Basil explains. “Some of those are dedicated to learning and memory.”

What is the nautilus shape called? ›

These shapes are called logarithmic spirals, and Nautilus shells are just one example. You also see logarithmic spiral shapes in spiral galaxies, and in many plants such as sunflowers.

Do nautilus have gender? ›

Nautiluses are male or female and are sexually dimorphic, with variation in the shape and size of the shell according to the gender of the animal—the shell of the male being slightly smaller and wider than that of the female.

Do nautilus have blood? ›

Circulatory system. Like all cephalopods, the blood of the nautilus contains hemocyanin, which is blue in its oxygenated state. There are two pairs of gills which are the only remnants of the ancestral metamerism to be visible in extant cephalopods.

Are nautilus as smart as octopus? ›

Another cephalopod, the nautilus, still lives this way. Like the octopus, it has tentacles. It also has a somewhat enlarged brain, although it doesn't seem to be anywhere as intelligent as an octopus. About 275 million years ago, the ancestor of the other cephalopods lost the external shell.

How deep can a nautilus dive? ›

Shell function

However, there are hazards associated with extreme depth for the nautilus: the shells of chambered nautiluses slowly fill with water at such depths, and they are only capable of withstanding depths up to 2000 feet before imploding due to pressure.

Which animal has 9 hearts? ›

But their circulatory system is just as unusual. The octopus has multiple hearts, and that fact can reveal secrets about its evolutionary history while also informing our understanding of how they manipulate their environments. Here are all the facts you need to know about octopus hearts.

Which animal has 8 hearts? ›

But, they postulate, instead of a single large heart, the Barosaurus probably had some eight hearts. Thus the primary heart would generate only sufficient pressure to pump blood to the next heart and so on.

Which animal has 10 hearts? ›

The hagfish ranks highly among the animals that have multiple hearts in terms of its sheer bizarreness. An eel-shaped, slimy fish, the hagfish is the only known extant animal to possess a skull but no vertebral column. Its strange, alienlike appearance likely contributed to its less-than-flattering name.

Are nautilus venomous? ›

With the exception of the handful of living Nautilus species, all cephalopods are thought to be venomous. Only the tiny blue-ringed octopus is dangerous to humans, but the rest also use venom to catch prey.

Do nautilus have teeth? ›

The beak and radula: Similar to other cephalopods, the nautilus has a parrot-like beak which is used to tear the flesh of its prey apart. The tongue-like radula of the nautilus has nine teeth.

Do nautilus have ink? ›

Unlike most other soft-bodied cephalopods — cuttlefish, squid and octopus — the nautilus has no camouflage, no ink and relatively poor vision.

What powers the Nautilus? ›

Nautilus is described by Verne as "a masterpiece containing masterpieces". It is designed and commanded by Captain Nemo. Electricity provided by sodium/mercury batteries (with the sodium provided by extraction from seawater) is the craft's primary power source for propulsion and other services.

What does a nautilus tattoo mean? ›

Nautilus Shell is a symbol for the inner beauty of nature, a symbol of life and internal harmony.

What is the story of nautilus? ›

Though the waves have washed away the name he was born with, most remember Nautilus as no mere sailor, but as a salvage diver. Just beyond the southernmost reach of the Blue Flame Isles lies a graveyard of ships, rumored lost while searching for a blessed land, looking to trade wealth for immortality.

What happens when you hold a nautilus shell? ›

when you have a nautilus shell in your offhand armor will always block the maximum amount of damage it can. this means that if you have a full set of maxed enchanted diamond of netherite gear you would be invincible, but this would only work when the player is underwater.

What is the spiritual meaning of shells? ›

Some people believe a shell's hard texture makes one's mind stronger. That is why seashells stand for a resilient and determined mindset. It also represents protection against evil spirits. Similarly, others believe shells are a bridge between the physical and the supernatural realm.

How rare is a nautilus shell? ›

By default, the Nautilus Shell has only a 0.8% chance of appearing. This can be increased using Luck of the Sea enchantments, which will slightly increase the player's odds.

What is the rarest nautilus? ›

While the golden nautilus is the rarest species, it's not the only target. All chambered nautiluses are valuable, as are other mollusks, and “deep water mining” for the shell trade is obliterating them all.

What did the nautilus evolve from? ›

Nautilus are modern descendents of the Nautiloids, which are the oldest group of cephalopods and date back to the Upper Cambrian period (500-550 million years ago). This group gave rise to all other cephalopods.

Do nautilus have pearls? ›

When natural nautilus shells have the outer layer removed a Pearl Nautilus shell is revealed. The beautiful pearl you see is the end result of the removal of the exterior of the shell. They are pearly white and when in the right light have pink hues.

What does nautilus mean in Latin? ›

Etymology. New Latin, from Latin, paper nautilus, from Greek nautilos, literally, sailor, from naus ship. First Known Use.

Did nautilus evolve octopus? ›

When discussing cephalopod evolution it is important to realise that they haven't evolved in a linear way from some primitive nautilus-like creature in the Cambrian through to the modern and undeniably sophisticated squids and octopuses.

Is nautilus edible? ›

Now they are found alive in the southwestern Pacific. Dead nautilus shells float as far away as East Africa and Japan. They are most common in the central Philippines. The meat is edible and fishermen have been known to set traps for chambered nautilus baited with chicken.

Is A nautilus rare? ›

Because of it's age, the nautilus is sometimes called a living fossil. The rare Allonautilus is one of the rarest animals in the world.

How many nautilus are left? ›

There are only two genera (Allonautilus, Nautilus) with a total of seven species of nautilus left. No one has been able to track a nautilus in the wild from hatch to maturity. In fact, no one knows where their eggs are laid in the wild. Captive nautiluses often develop buoyancy and shell formation problems.

Why is nautilus extinct? ›

Although nautiluses have survived five major mass extinctions, today they're threatened with extinction due to excessive overfishing and trade. For example, one population in the Philippines declined more than 80 percent in just 15 years.

How big are nautilus eggs? ›

Like other cephalopods, nautiluses reproduce by laying eggs. However, unlike most cephalopods, which produce objectively tiny eggs, nautilus eggs are relatively large, measuring approximately 1 to 1.5 inches long.

What did nautilus eat? ›

This nocturnal opportunistic feeder eats shrimp, crabs, fishes, dead animals, and occasionally another nautilus. It is believed that prey is detected by smell since the animal lacks good vision. Food is captured by its retractable tentacles and passed to its mouth where a beak-like jaw tears it into pieces.

How big can a nautilus get? ›

Ancient nautiluses reached up to 10 feet in size, which is much larger than their current maximum size of 10 inches. Although there were originally over 10,000 different species of nautilus, only six species remain and are found in the Pacific and Indian Ocean.

How do nautilus use their eyes? ›

Vision: Invertebrates

However, unlike the eyes of other cephalopods (squids and octopuses), the Nautilus eye has no lens. Its pinhole eye works like a pinhole camera: the small pupil creates a dim image on the retina.

Do nautilus have slime? ›

So, the crusty nautilus' hairy, yellow slime. It's a sort of protein-dense skin called a periostracum, something you'll also find on bivalves and oceanic snails. “It feels like wet moss,” says Hamilton.

Which animal has highest IQ? ›

CHIMPANZEES. RECKONED to be the most-intelligent animals on the planet, chimps can manipulate the environment and their surroundings to help themselves and their community.

What is the smartest sea animal? ›

It's estimated that dolphins have an IQ of around 45, this makes them one of the smartest animals in the world, and probably the smartest animal in the ocean. It's estimated that the dolphin's brain size is almost five times bigger than is usual for a creature of their size.

What is the smartest sea animal ever? ›

Dolphins. Our first intelligent sea creature on our list probably isn't a surprise—dolphins have long been recognized for their complex behavior.

How deep can a human dive without dying? ›

That means that most people can dive up to a maximum of 60 feet safely. For most swimmers, a depth of 20 feet (6.09 meters) is the most they will free dive. Experienced divers can safely dive to a depth of 40 feet (12.19 meters) when exploring underwater reefs.

Is 300 feet a deep dive? ›

While the recommended maximum depth for conventional scuba diving is 130 feet, technical divers may work in the range of 170 feet to 350 feet, sometimes even deeper.

What is the deepest diving creature? ›

In the lead are Cuvier's beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) that can dive from the ocean's surface down to 2,992m (9,816ft) thanks to adaptations that help them conserve oxygen and survive extreme pressure .

How old is the oldest nautilus? ›

A member of the cephalopod family, the Nautilus is like a swimming snail with tentacles. This living fossil has changed very little in the past 500 million years.

How intelligent is a nautilus? ›

The nautilus' brain is surprisingly complex: it can be trained, and it has good short- and long-term memory. “The Nautilus has up to 40 dedicated, obvious lobes in its brain,” Dr. Basil explains. “Some of those are dedicated to learning and memory.”

Does nautilus have eyes? ›

Nautilus does not possess a camera eye but rather, a pinhole eye, which does not have lens or cornea. The eye can be subdivided into modules such as photoreceptor cells, retina, lens and cornea. The pinhole eye of Nautilus provides a unique example to explore how these modules evolve.

Are nautilus shells illegal? ›

Unfortunately for the golden nautilus, its rarity makes it extremely valuable to the illegal shell trade. Although all “chambered nautiluses” are protected under the Endangered Species Act, each shell can fetch thousands of dollars.

What sea animal has the highest IQ? ›

It's estimated that dolphins have an IQ of around 45, this makes them one of the smartest animals in the world, and probably the smartest animal in the ocean.

What is the power of nautilus? ›

Nautilus is capable of extended voyages without refueling or otherwise restocking supplies. Its maximum dive time is around five days.

How big is the biggest nautilus? ›

Ancient nautiluses reached up to 10 feet in size, which is much larger than their current maximum size of 10 inches. Although there were originally over 10,000 different species of nautilus, only six species remain and are found in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. They have complex homes.


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