Think Tank

Pearly Nautilus Shell

The Pearly Nautilus is a living, spiral-shelled squid-like mollusc that lives in the sea.

Pearly Nautilus shell from Wolverhampton Arts and Museums

Pearly Nautilus Shell

Molluscs are a diverse group of animals that include the shelled clams and snails and the naked or unshelled octopus and squid.

The Pearly Nautilus animal is a squid-like creature with many tentacles that lived inside this shell.

The Pearly Nautilus eats shrimps and other crustaceans, and fish. It will also scavenge on dead animals.

The Pearly Nautilus lives in the Indo-Pacific oceans. Its shell can grow up to 26 cm in diameter.

More about the Pearly Nautilus

The living Pearly Nautilus animal has up to 80 tentacles. It is a strong, but slow swimmer that uses jet propulsion to move backwards, although it can swim forwards using its tentacles.

The colour of the shell helps to camouflage the Pearly Nautilus. The white underside does not show up from below against the light sky, and the top of the shell cannot easily be seen from above the water.

In life the shell has a leathery hood which can be closed in times of danger. The animals’ body can be completely retracted in to the shell and the hood close, protecting the vulnerable soft parts of the animal.

The Pearly Nautilus does not have a lens in its eyes, leaving the inside of the eye open to sea water.

The scientific name, or two-part Latin binomial, for the Pearly Nautilus is Nautilus pompilius. The name ‘Nautilus’ come from the Greek work meaning ‘sailor’. The Pearly Nautilus is the only living member of the Genus Nautilus, so it is often referred to as a living fossil.

Little is known about how the Pearly Nautilus lives in the wild. They are hunted by humans for their shells, which make attractive and popular collectors’ items. Unfortunately, the Pearly Nautilus reproduces very slowly, and the constant hunting is now threatening the survival of the species.

Want to know more?

To download this information or to find out more, click on the Resources to your right. 

This Pearly Nautilus is part of the collections held at the Wolverhampton Arts and Museums Service in Wolverhampton. Use the ‘Wolverhampton arts+museums’ web link below to find out more about the Collections in Wolverhampton.

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