A few days ago I received an email with a request for information about the Paper Nautilus “shell.” Dinah Voyles Pulver was writing an article for the Daytona Beach News Journal about Debbie Brokaw, an early morning beachcomber who chanced to find a completely intact Paper nautilus. I offered Dinah some information about the relative rarity of finding one of these on the beach, and she kindly mentioned my web site address in her article.
Within hours I received emails from two readers of the News Journal (Terry England and Terri McDaniel), each with photos of something they’d found on the beach that resembled the Paper nautilus. I confirmed the I.D., and requested permission to publish one set of the photos, which you see here. They were taken by Terry England, who found the nautilus while walking on the beach near Ponce Inlet on New Smyrna Beach right before Christmas 2012.
The Paper nautilus is actually not a proper shell at all, but is the egg case of the argonaut octopus. The argonaut is a pelagic creature, which means it spends its life in the open ocean. Oddly, this octopus lives near the surface of the sea. It tends its eggs, using the beautiful shell to protect them. There is also evidence that the shell is used to trap air which helps the octopus regulate its buoyancy.
It is not common to find a Paper nautilus on the beach, mainly because the shell is so thin and fragile that they usually don’t survive the long trip from the open ocean to the beach, though I suspect that they are found more often than is realized.
More nautilus shells found:
Ken Fisher found the Paper Nautilus in the photo below on New Smyrna Beach February 1, 2013:
Below is a photo of a beautiful Nautilus shell found by Kurtis Collins just south of the cut through from the boat anchorage at Peck lake in Stuart, Florida.
And below is a photo shared on Facebook by Patricia Whitfield of the living Paper Nautilus with the argonaut octopus still inside:
Links to more info on other web sites below:
Here are some great photos of the argonaut octopus with the shell.
Here’s a great blog post by my friend Marge, if you’re not so much a scientist, but prefer a more poetic description of the argonaut’s beauty.
Follow this link if you want to see the cool things scientists have discovered about the argonaut.
Click this link if you want to see a bunch of pictures of the argonaut.
If you’re more into video: