Friday, 28 August 2015

Spotted: Rare nautilus seen after three decades

AUGUST 28, 2015

by Chuck Bednar

A species of nautilus that has been called possibly “the rarest animal in the world” has been found in the wild for the first time in 30 years, and as fate would have it, one of the biologists who spotted was also a member of the research team that saw it three decades ago.

Peter Ward of the University of Washington identified the creature, Allonautilus scrobiculatus, off the coast of Papua New Guinea in 1984 along with colleague Bruce Saunders of Bryn Mawr College. He also briefly saw it again two years later, according to NBC News reports. That was the last time that any scientist laid eyes on the creature – until this past July, that is.

rare nautilusAs part of an expedition to Ndrova Island, Ward and his fellow investigators set up “bait on a stick” systems hundreds of feet below the surface of the water every evening, and recorded the activity around the suspended fish and chicken for 12-hour periods. One night, the elusive creature finally made an appearance and was soon joined by a second.

They were ultimately scared off by a sunfish, and during the course of their expedition, Ward’s team used baited traps to capture Allonautilus and several nautiluses at depths of about 600 feet. They were quickly brought to the surface in chilled water, since the creatures dislike heat. Small tissue, shell, and mucous samples were taken from each, and they were measured and released.

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