A specimen of the more common Nautilus pompilius variety. Image Credit: J. Baecker
Allonautilus scrobiculatus, an extremely rare species of nautilus that exhibits a distinctive furry appearance, was spotted for the first and only time all the way back in 1984.
Now however University of Washington biologist Peter Ward, who was one of two scientists involved in the creature’s original discovery, has finally observed a second specimen after spending a long time searching for it in the warm oceans off the coast of Papua New Guinea.
To find it, Ward and his team set up a “bait on a stick” system each night to attract the elusive creatures which live at a depth of between 500 and 1,300 feet below the surface of the sea.
“This is kind of like a holy grail, at least in what I do,” he said. “It takes a lot of push to put anything in a wholly new and different genus [and] this is one of the newest animals on the planet.”
The unusual looking species, which lives inside a shell and possesses a number of tendrils that protrude from the front of its body, is often thought of as a “living fossil”.
“This could be the rarest animal in the world,” said Ward. “We need to know if Allonautilus is anywhere else, and we won’t know until we go out there and look.”