Nautilus (Family Nautilidae, listed on CITES Appendix II – Higher protection from massive trade demand)
The chambered nautilus, Nautilus pompilius, also called the pearly nautilus, is the best-known species of nautilus. It hasn’t changed in all of its 400 million years of existence. As a slow-growing invertebrate, it is especially vulnerable to overfishing as it takes 15 to 20 years to mature and only lays one egg at a time with only about a dozen eggs in a year. The eggs take about a year to incubate. Targeted for its shell, it is also threatened by pollution and predation by bony fishes, octopuses and sharks.
I had waited a long time to have a chance to take a photo of this living fossil. As a deep-water species – the nautilus typically inhabits depths of several hundred metres – it’s not a common creature to encounter as a scuba diver. The vertical movement patterns of these animals are not well understood, but it may be that they rise at night to feed, mate and lay eggs. I feel very privileged to have come across one in shallow water.