(Nautilus sp.)




Facts about this animal

The Nautilus is an archaic member of cephalopods still possessing a chambered, coiled shell of 16 to 26.8 cm in diameter. Only the last of the up to 36 chambers is inhabited whereas the others, filled with gas and fluid, are used to regulate buoyancy. Gas pressure is hold constant at 0.91 atm and the body is moved in and out to change water displacement in order to sink or rise. The shell is patterned with brown stripes above and is white below, both serving as camouflage. Arranged in two circles the foot possesses about 82 to 90 retractable tentacles which have no suckers. A dorsal hood can close the shell to protect the soft parts. The animal moves slowly by ejecting breathing water from the ventral mantle cavity, which contains four gills, through the siphon. The olfactory sense is thought to be the primary one but a pair of quite large, open pinhole eyes is also present. These probably just serve to recognize the diurnal fluctuation of light.

Nautiluses make vertical migrations from 300 to 450 m depth where they hide by day to 90 m depth by night where they forage of shrimps, other crustaceans, carrion and small fishes. The only known natural enemy is the Octopus which can crack the shell.


The large eggs are laid individually in leathery capsules and adhered to rocks or corals near the surface. The hatchlings will emerge after 12 months. They yet have a four-chambered shell. Life may last up to 20 years.

Did you know?
that only 5-6 extant species exist of this 500 million year old group of cephalopods having their greatest radiation in the Ordovician about 450 million years ago? that the shell of a Nautilus contains gas-filled chambers and therefore will implode at a depth greater than 800 m? that the Nautilus has no ink to protect itself like other cephalopods because it can hide in its shell?


Name (Scientific) Nautilus sp.
Name (English) Nautilus
Name (French) Nautile
Name (German) Perlboot, Nautilus
Name (Spanish) Nautilus
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Lee R. Berger



Range Indo-Pacific ocean from the Andaman Islands to Fiji.
Habitat At the slopes of tropical reefs at a depth of 90 to 450 m in open water or above the reef. Rocks or corals near the surface seem to be necessary for the deposition of eggs and their development.
Wild population The species are living in marine ecosystems in 90-450 m depth where appropriate counting is not possible. Fishermen, however, report to catch up to 20 specimens per net draw.
Zoo population 28 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo



Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
J. Baecker

Why do zoos keep this animal

Much in the life cycle of the Nautilus is unknown because of its hardly accessible habitat. Therefore, some aquariums try to breed them in captivity which failed until recently.

Adults are shown for educational reasons to illustrate shelled cephalopods which had a great radiation in former epochs.