A Living Fossil Returns

Allonautilus scrobiculatus, spotted again after 30 years.

A rare species of nautilus, not seen in three decades, was spotted recently off of Papua New Guinea. University of Washington biologist Peter Ward last saw the elusive variation, which has a thick, hairy, slimy covering on its shell, back in 1984. Returning to the same reef to study nautilus populations this past August, Ward again caught sight of the rare nautilus.

Nautiloids are often referred to as “living fossils” since they’ve not evolved much over their 500 million years on earth. But even the more common species may soon be hard to find: Illegal fishing and “mining” operations for nautilus shells are threatening their populations. Ward hopes calling attention to the cephalopods may encourage protections before it’s too late.

Update, Nov. 28, 2016: This video has been removed pending the resolution of a licensing claim.