Nautilus – the Pearlboat from the Deep Sea
June 9, 2010
Nautili are living fossils. And they are beautiful. A creature, that will hardly be ever seen alive by someone, unless the one is diving in the area of Palau in the pacific ocean and is extremely lucky. Another chance to see such a wonderful creature alive is the Waikiki aquarium on Oahu on the Hawaiian archipelago.
40″ x 13″, silk
The habitat of the pearlboat – which is another name for the Nautilus – are the steeps of the pacific coral reefs in greater depths, at about 300-400 m during the day. During the night he ascends into shallow waters for feeding. You can find him in the sea of the Andamans in the western hemisphere to the Fiji islands in the East, from the south of Japan to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and the archipelago of Palau.
Pearlboats belong to the head-feet (cephalopoda) and therefore are part of the family of the octopus, squid and cuttlefish. Different from the octopus the nautilus has a wonderful shell, which protects his body, but is his curse at the same time. Collectors on the entire world are crazy for his polished mother-of-pearl shells which unfortunately can be used as a single decoration or are worked into jewellery or other decorative and precious objects.
Researchers of the University of Hawaii have found out that the nautili mate and lay eggs in slightly warmer waters. Assumption is made that nautili enter shallower depths to lay their eggs on hard surfaces like rocks or coral. In 1990 the Waikiki Aquarium successfully hatched its first young nautilus in captivity. For the above reasons it is extremely difficult to observe the nautlius in its natural environment so that hardly anything is known about its habits. Therefore it is important to protect this beautiful animal before we lose the opportunity to get to know it.Therefore it is also imperative that their shells are not marketed and sold.
To my dismay I have found that these shells are even offered on the Internet which is an abomination. PLEASE DO NOT BUY THE SHELLS OF A NAUTILUS!
The shell of the Nautilus is not only the protection for his body but also his means for navigation. While most cephalopods float i.e. are neutrally buoyant the Nautilus allows gas to diffuse into the gap between the mantle and the shell. This way he can descend or ascend but he is not a very good swimmer.
Nautili reproduce by laying eggs. The females attach the fertilized eggs to rocks in shallow waters, whereupon the eggs take eight to twelve months to develop until the 30 millimetres (1.2 in) juveniles hatch. Females spawn only once per year and regenerate their gonads (after Wikipedia). The reproduction cycle is therefore quite long – another reason for the Nautilus being an endangered species.
What is extremely astonishing is that the lifespan of nautili is long and may exceed 20 years! A very long lifespan for a member of the cephalopoda.
Altogether we still know not enough about this creature and how it can be protected other than through a general ban on catching and the use of the shells.
This silk painting – the third of the Magic Creatures series – tries to show the beauty and the magic of this creature. For this reason I chose a more realistic and detailed presentation. My greatest wish is that everyone who sees one of these wonderful shells relinquishes to buy one. Only a boykott of the offered pieces will destroy the market for them and might give the Nautilus a chance to survive…