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Protection Sought for Nautilus, Ancient Mollusk Vanishing Due to Shell Trade

Chambered Nautilus Has Changed Little in 500 Million Years,
Now Threatened With Extinction by Widespread Harvest, Trade

OAKLAND, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity today petitioned to secure Endangered Species Act protection for the chambered nautilus, an ocean mollusk threatened with extinction due to overharvest for the international shell trade. Because of its unique spiraling shell that is a classic example of a fractal pattern, the shell is a popular commodity. Over the past 16 years, nearly 1.7 million nautilus shell products were imported into the United States.

“These fascinating animals seem like they’re from another time and place, and we’re lucky to share the planet with them. Unfortunately, without help, we’re risking losing them forever,” said Dr. Abel Valdivia, a marine scientist with the Center.

A relative of squid and octopi, the chambered nautilus grows to about 8 inches long and has a spiraled shell and about 90 tentacles that it uses to catch prey. It’s often called a “living fossil” because of its striking resemblance to ancestors that swam shallow seas half a billion years ago. Although nautiluses have survived five major mass extinctions, today nautilus are threatened by extinction due to excessive overfishing and trade. For example, one population in the Philippines declined more than 80 percent in just 15 years. The future of nautilus is also threatened by ocean acidification, which can impair the ability of mollusks to build the shells they need to survive.

Read more.

Learn more about saving the chambered nautilus.

Contact: Dr. Abel Valdivia

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Media Contacts:
Mike Stark, Communications Director
mstark@biologicaldiversity.org, (520) 623-5252, ext. 315

Jessica Herrera, Media Specialist – Population and Sustainability
jherrera@biologicaldiversity.org, (520) 260-17256

Steve Jones, Media Specialist – Oceans
sjones@biologicaldiversity.org, (415) 305-3866

Andy Parker, Media Specialist – Endangered Species
aparker@biologicaldiversity.org, (503) 310-5569

Patrick Sullivan, Media Specialist – Climate Change, Fracking
psullivan@biologicaldiversity.org, (415) 632-5316

Tom Brown, Media Specialist – Public Lands
tbrown@biologicaldiversity.org, (520) 623-5252 ext. 326

Russ McSpadden, Communications Associate – Media Photos
rmcspadden@biologicaldiversity.org

Banner photo Center for Biological Diversity; Chambered nautilus photo by Greg J. Barord