Peter Ward, a biologist at the University of Washington, recently announced that he came across what may be called the rarest animal in the world after a first brief encounter 30 years prior.
The (re) discovery was made this July, when Ward and his team caught on tape a rare species of nautilus off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Ward was surprised to meet the animal after a thirty year long absence.
Nautiluses are considered to be pre-historic animals that are even older than the dinosaurs and are often referred to as “living fossils.” While in human world that phrase may seem offensive, in the animal world that’s a title of honor. Living fossils are animals whose carcasses were found in geological strata where dinosaur remains were also found except that living fossils are still alive today.
Nautiluses are also a strange type of shellfish that has distant relatives among squids, octopuses and cuttlefish. Ward spotted the elusive animal during a scientific project designed to assess the health and amount of nautilus populations.
For their purposes, researchers immersed several scraps of fish and raw chicken down to 1,300 feet below sea surface and they used a camera to see what happens. Moments later two nautiluses showed up and began feasting on the meat. One of them was an Allonautilus scrobiculatus, which is the living fossil we were talking about. The two nautiluses never left their prey though a greedy sunfish kept trying to chase them away.
“For the next two hours, the sunfish just kept whacking them with its tail,”
the biologists noted in a recently published article on the discovery.
The team was also able to capture live nautiluses including the super-rare species during their time spent at sea. The creatures were fished from 600 feet below surface since the tiny animals do not cope well with warm water. They only emerge at surface during night time to feed.
In order not to distress the animals, scientists used cooler water in the containers they kept them. The creatures were measured, samples were taken from them and they were eventually released at the exact spot where they had been fished.
Unfortunately, nautiluses are facing the risk of extinction since they are recklessly hunted due to their beautiful spiraled shells. Ward noted that humans may be able to do to the seemingly ‘rarest animal in the world’ what two global mass extinctions weren’t – bring the Allonautilus on the verge of extinction.
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