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Concept: Nautilus


Trackways and tracemakers preserved together in the fossil record are rare. However, the co-occurrence of a drag mark, together with the dead animal that produced it, is exceptional. Here, we describe an 8.5 m long ammonite drag mark complete with the preserved ammonite shell (Subplanites rueppellianus) at its end. Previously recorded examples preserve ammonites with drag marks of < 1 m. The specimen was recovered from a quarry near Solnhofen, southern Germany. The drag mark consists of continuous parallel ridges and furrows produced by the ribs of the ammonite shell as it drifted just above the sediment surface, and does not reflect behaviour of the living animal.

Concepts: Nautilus, Calcite, Bioerosion, Fossil, Solnhofen limestone, Dinosaur, Sedimentary rock, Trace fossil


Coleoid cephalopods have an elaborate camera eye whereas nautiloids have primitive pinhole eye without lens and cornea. The Nautilus pinhole eye provides a unique example to explore the module of lens formation and its evolutionary mechanism. Here, we conducted an RNA-seq study of developing eyes of Nautilus and pygmy squid. First, we found that evolutionary distances from the common ancestor to Nautilus or squid are almost the same. Although most upstream eye development controlling genes were expressed in both species, six3/6 that are required for lens formation in vertebrates was not expressed in Nautilus. Furthermore, many downstream target genes of six3/6 including crystallin genes and other lens protein related genes were not expressed in Nautilus. As six3/6 and its controlling pathways are widely conserved among molluscs other than Nautilus, the present data suggest that deregulation of the six3/6 pathway led to the pinhole eye evolution in Nautilus.

Concepts: Nautilus, Gene expression, Mollusca, Cephalopod, Lens, Crystallin, Evolution, Eye


Externally shelled cephalopods were important elements in open marine habitats throughout Earth history. Paleotemperatures calculated on the basis of the oxygen isotope composition of their shells can provide insights into ancient marine systems as well as the ecology of this important group of organisms. In some sedimentary deposits, however, the aragonitic shell of the ammonite or nautilid is poorly or not preserved at all, while the calcitic structures belonging to the jaws are present. This study tests for the first time if the calcitic jaw structures in fossil cephalopods can be used as a proxy for paleotemperature. We first analyzed the calcitic structures on the jaws of Recent Nautilus and compared the calculated temperatures of precipitation with those from the aragonitic shell in the same individuals. Our results indicate that the jaws of Recent Nautilus are secreted in isotopic equilibrium, and the calculated temperatures approximately match those of the shell. We then extended our study to ammonites from the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) Pierre Shale of the U.S. Western Interior and the age-equivalent Mooreville Chalk of the Gulf Coastal Plain. In the Pierre Shale, jaws occur in situ inside the body chambers of well-preserved Baculites while in the Mooreville Chalk, the jaw elements appear as isolated occurrences in the sediment and the aragonitic shell material is not preserved. For the Pierre Shale specimens, the calculated temperatures of well-preserved jaw material match those of well-preserved shell material in the same individual. Analyses of the jaw elements in the Mooreville Chalk permit a comparison of the paleotemperatures between the two sites, and show that the Western Interior is warmer than the Gulf Coast at that time. In summary, our data indicate that the calcitic jaw elements of cephalopods can provide a reliable geochemical archive of the habitat of fossil forms.

Concepts: Fossil, Siphuncle, Mollusca, Cephalopod, Nautilus, Sedimentary rock, Ammonite, Cretaceous



New coleoid cephalopods are described from statolith remains from the Middle Eocene (Middle Lutetian) of the Paris Basin. Fifteen fossil statoliths are identified and assigned to the Sepiidae (Sepia boletzkyi sp. nov.,? Sepia pira sp. nov.), Loliginidae (Loligo clarkei sp. nov.), and Ommastrephidae (genus indet.) families. The sediments containing these fossils indicate permanent aquatic settings in the infralittoral domain. These sediments range in age from 46 Mya to 43 Mya. Analysis of the fossil record of statoliths (from findings described here, together with a review of previously published data) indicates marked biases in our knowledge. Fossil statoliths are known from as far back as the Early Jurassic (199.3 to 190.8 Mya) but surprisingly, to the best of our knowledge, no record occurs in the Cretaceous. This is a “knowledge bias” and clearly calls for further studies. Finally, we attempt to compare findings described here with fossils previously used to constrain divergence and/or diversification ages of some coleoid subclades in molecular phylogenies. This comparison clearly indicates that the new records detailed here will challenge some estimated divergence times of coleoid cephalopod subclades.

Concepts: Dinosaur, Evolution, Cuttlefish, Cephalopod, Phylogenetics, Nautilus, Fossil


Nautilus is often used as an analogue for the ecology and behavior of extinct externally shelled cephalopods. Nautilus shell grows quickly, has internal growth banding, and is widely believed to precipitate aragonite in oxygen isotope equilibrium with seawater. Pieces of shell from a wild-caught Nautilus macromphalus from New Caledonia and from a Nautilus belauensis reared in an aquarium were cast in epoxy, polished, and then imaged. Growth bands were visible in the outer prismatic layer of both shells. The thicknesses of the bands are consistent with previously reported daily growth rates measured in aquarium reared individuals. In situ analysis of oxygen isotope ratios using secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) with 10 μm beam-spot size reveals inter- and intra-band δ18O variation. In the wild-caught sample, a traverse crosscutting 45 growth bands yielded δ18O values ranging 2.5‰, from +0.9 to -1.6 ‰ (VPDB), a range that is larger than that observed in many serial sampling of entire shells by conventional methods. The maximum range within a single band (~32 μm) was 1.5‰, and 27 out of 41 bands had a range larger than instrumental precision (±2 SD = 0.6‰). The results from the wild individual suggest depth migration is recorded by the shell, but are not consistent with a simple sinusoidal, diurnal depth change pattern. To create the observed range of δ18O, however, this Nautilus must have traversed a temperature gradient of at least ~12°C, corresponding to approximately 400 m depth change. Isotopic variation was also measured in the aquarium-reared sample, but the pattern within and between bands likely reflects evaporative enrichment arising from a weekly cycle of refill and replacement of the aquarium water. Overall, this work suggests that depth migration behavior in ancient nektonic mollusks could be elucidated by SIMS analysis across individual growth bands.

Concepts: Oxygen, Isotope, Mass spectrometry, Cephalopod, Oxygen isotope ratio cycle, Mollusca, Nautilus


Averaged demographic data from previously unfished populations of Nautilus and Allonautilus (Cephalopoda) provide a baseline to determine if a population is undisturbed and in “equilibrium” or is in “disequilibrium” as a result of fishery pressure. Data are available for previously undisturbed local nautiloid populations in Papua New Guinea, Australia, Indonesia, Fiji, Palau, American Samoa, New Caledonia and Vanuatu (total n = 2,669 live-caught, tagged and released animals). The data show that unfished populations average ~75% males and ~74% mature animals. By contrast, unpublished, anecdotal and historical records since 1900 from the heavily fished central Philippines have shown a persistent decline in trap yields and a change in demographics of N. pompilius. By 1979, a sample of fished live-caught animals (n = 353) comprised only ~28% males and ~27% mature animals. Continued uncontrolled trapping caused collapse of the fishery and the shell industry has moved elsewhere, including Indonesia. In addition, we show that estimated rates of population decline are offered by unpublished tag-release records in unfished Palau. These data show that patterns of trap yields and demographic differences between fished and unfished populations in relative age class and sex ratios can indicate disequilibria wrought by fisheries pressure that can render local populations inviable. Given adequate samples (n ≥100 live-caught animals), a threshold of <50% males and mature animals in fished populations should signal the need to initiate curative conservation initiatives. The current trajectory of uncontrolled nautiloid fisheries can only mean trouble and possibly extinction of local populations of this ancient, iconic molluscan lineage.

Concepts: New Guinea, Papua New Guinea, Demographics, Nautilus, Demographic economics, Oceania, Demography, Mollusca


Exploration of a landlocked cenote on Lifou (Loyalty Islands) revealed 37 shells of the cephalopod Nautilus macromphalus Sowerby, 1849, in saltwater on the cenote floor, approximately 40 m below the water surface. The occurrence of these shells is unusual because N. macromphalus is restricted to the open marine waters surrounding the island. All of the shells are mature, and nearly all of them are unbroken, with faded red-brown color stripes. We analyzed seven shells to determine their age. Radiocarbon dating yielded ages of 6380±30 to 7095±30 y BP. The 238U-series radionuclides 210Pb (half-life  = 22.3 y) and 226Ra (half-life  = 1600 y) also were measured. Two of the samples showed radioactive equilibrium between the nuclides, consistent with the old radiocarbon dates, but the other five samples showed excess 210Pb. When corrected for radioactive decay, the 226Ra activities were much greater than those found in living Nautilus. We conclude that exposure to high activities of 222Rn and 226Ra in the salty groundwater of the cenote altered the activities originally incorporated into the shells. Human placement of the shells in the cavity is rejected based on their radiocarbon age and the geometry of the cenote. The most probable explanation is that the animals entered the flooded karstic system through a connection on the seaward side at approximately 7,000 y BP, during an interval of slowly rising sea level. Unable to find an exit and/or due to anoxic bottom waters, the animals were trapped and died inside. The open connection with the sea persisted for ∼700 y, but after ∼6400 y BP, the connection was lost, probably due to a roof collapse. This is a rare example of Nautilus in a karstic coastal basin and provides a minimum age for the appearance of N. macromphalus in the Loyalty Islands.

Concepts: New Caledonia, Half-life, Carbon-14, Nautilus, Radiocarbon dating, Radioactive decay, Isotope, Radioactivity


Living fossils are survivors of previously more diverse lineages that originated millions of years ago and persisted with little morphological change. Therefore, living fossils are model organisms to study both long-term and ongoing adaptation and speciation processes. However, many aspects of living fossils evolution and their persistence in the modern world remain unclear. Here, we investigate three major aspects of the evolutionary history of living fossils: cryptic speciation, population genetics, and effective population sizes; using members of the genera Nautilus and Allonautilus as classic examples of true living fossils. For this, we analyzed genome-wide ddRAD-Seq data for all six currently recognized nautiloid species throughout their distribution range. Our analyses identified three major allopatric Nautilus clades: a South Pacific clade, subdivided into three subclades with no signs of admixture between them; a Coral Sea clade, consisting of two genetically distinct populations with significant admixture; and a widespread Indo-Pacific clade, devoid of significant genetic substructure. Within these major clades we detected five Nautilus groups, which likely correspond to five distinct species. With the exception of Nautilus macromphalus, all previously described species are at odds with genome-wide data, testifying to the prevalence of cryptic species among living fossils. Detailed FST analyses further revealed significant genome-wide and locus-specific signatures of selection between species and differentiated populations, which is demonstrated here for the first time in a living fossil. Finally, approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) simulations suggested large effective population sizes, which may explain the low levels of population differentiation commonly observed in living fossils. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Phylogenetics, DNA, Charles Darwin, Species, Nautilus, Genetics, Biology, Evolution


Cephalopods are the sole invertebrates included in the list of regulated species following the Directive 2010/63/EU. According to the Directive, achieving competence through adequate training is a requisite for people having a role in the different functions (article 23) as such carrying out procedures on animals, designing procedures and projects, taking care of animals, killing animals. Cephalopod Biology and Care Training Program is specifically designed to comply with the requirements of the “working document on the development of a common education and training framework to fulfil the requirements under the Directive 2010/63/EU”. The training event occurred at the ICM-CSIC in Barcelona (Spain) where people coming from Europe, America and Asia were instructed on how to cope with regulations for the use of cephalopod molluscs for scientific purposes. The training encompasses discussion on the guidelines for the use and care of animals and their welfare with particular reference to procedures that may be of interest for neuroscience. Intensive discussion has been carried out during the training sessions with focus on behavioural studies and paradigms, welfare assessment, levels of severity of scientific procedures, animal care, handling, transport, individual identification and marking, substance administration, anaesthesia, analgesia and humane killing.

Concepts: Coleoidea, Nautilus, Animal, Cuttlefish, Octopus, Mollusca, Cephalopod