Letter | Published:

Activity levels of Nautilus in the wild

Nature volume 362, pages 626628 (15 April 1993) | Download Citation



WHILE ammonites and all other ectocochleate cephalopods became extinct, nautiloids survived relatively unchanged from the Ordovician, suggesting that they are unusually well adapted to their niche. Here we obtain high-resolution tracks of Nautilus positions and depths, combined with telemetered jet pressures, which clarify both its lifestyle and economics. Nautilus is more active in nature than in captivity1, but its energy costs are lower than projected2,3. Viewing Nautilus as 'vertic', rather than benthic, resolves this contradiction. Records show that the cost of transport is the same in any direction within a vertical plane. Living on a reef face swept by a lateral current means that vertical movements4,5 sample large areas for chemical trails. A detected trail can be followed upcurrent in the slow-moving boundary layer, but no effort is wasted on horizontal movement without good prospects for food; long-range movements are downcurrent and made by drifting. Once fed, a Nautilus can reduce its energy costs by moving to deeper, cooler waters, where a single meal can last for months.

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  1. Biology Department, Dalhousie University, Halifax B3H 4J1, Canada

    • R. K. O'Dor
    • , D. M. Webber
    •  & J. Wells
  2. Marine Biomedical Institute, University of Texas, Galveston, Texas 77555-0843, USA

    • J. Forsythe
  3. Zoology Department, Cambridge University, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK

    • M. J. Wells


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