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The chambered nautilus (Nautilus pompilius), of the family Nautilidae, is native to the Indo-Pacific region of the ocean (Reyes 2016). N. pompilius lives in the sea above coral reefs and is sometimes found in habitats as deep as 750m (2,460 feet) (Jereb and Roper 2005). Adult male nautiluses reach an average diameter of 131.9 mm (5 3/16 inches), while females reach an average of 118.9 mm (4 11/16 inches) (Dunstan, Ward and Marshall 2011). The body of N. pompilius is contained within a spiral shaped shell that is a pearly white color with deep crimson stripes on the top and solid white underneath. Juveniles are striped over their entire shells. Chambers contained within the center of the shell are filled with gases and seawater which allow the species to be buoyant (Lemanis, Zachow, Fusseis and Hoffmann 2015). The nautilus can also swim and travel via jet propulsion. Generally, these animals travel to shallower depths at night to feed on crustaceans and carrion, which they locate using their odor-sensing tentacles (Saunders and Landman 2009) (Crook and Basil 2008¬).  N. pompilius employs both short- and long-term memory and is able to learn simple associations (Crook and Basil 2008¬). The chambered nautilus utilizes internal fertilization and lays approximately ten eggs each year (Eldredge and Stanley 2012).  These eggs take 1 year to hatch, while the animal takes 15 years to mature and lives over 21 years (Dunstan, Bradshaw and Marshall 2011) (Dunstan, Ward and Marshall 2011). Because of its low reproductive rate and slow life history, N. pompilius is in danger of extinction due to over-fishing to supply the demand for nautilus shells (De Angelis 2012).  After the elimination of several local nautilus populations, it was agreed in 2016 that international controls would be enforced over trade of this species. (De Angelis 2012) (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species 2016).

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© LisaMichelle Pecaro, Expo E-42c: Writing in the Sciences, Harvard University Extension School.

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