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.
Learn more about saving the chambered nautilus.
Contact: Dr. Abel Valdivia
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