Species

THE NAUTILUS PEARLS

The pearl measures 5.94 x 5.93mm and weighs 1.49 carats (5.98 grains.). It is nearly round and porcelaneous, with unblemished surfaces and no evidence of any treatment or working. Uniquely, it seems to emit an inner light. The pearl comes from one of the most unusual of animals, a creature that has existed almost unchanged since the beginning of our planet.s fossil record, because of many biological innovations that allowed it to survive.

The pearl came from the depths of the Celebes Sea to the East of North Borneo, in international waters off Malaysia and Indonesia , where the sea is warm and bountiful. The fishermen who caught the Nautilus were not specifically fishing for Nautilus, although the meat is considered a delicacy and the shells have good value. Rather, their targets were cuttlefish or squid. To catch them, the men construct a square trap of bamboo which squid, cuttlefish or Nautilus can enter but cannot exit. After putting a piece of bait inside the trap, the fishermen drop it into very deep water, using a buoy to mark the location. At sunrise, they retrieve their traps.

When my chief pearl finder heard rumors of discovery of one Nautilus pearl, I sent him racing, with a heavily armed team, by speedboat through rough seas to recover it. The rumor of a Nautilus pearl took him on a perilous adventure to a distant island, not long ago the domain of fierce Dayak headhunters, a voyage which led to success. According to local reports, a fisherman recovered the pearl from a mollusk caught in 2004. No local person had heard of any other Nautilus pearl being found. Almost to the point of rejecting all purchase offers, they were reluctant to part with the pearl because they believe such rarities possess magical powers which make the holder invisible to all enemies, impart ability to see behind as in a rear-view mirror, and render him invincible in battle.

NAUTILUS PEARLS IN HISTORY

The first mention of Nautilus pearls in Western scientific literature came in Nature, October, 1912, in a letter from H. Lyster Jameson, who included a photograph of a pearl, .alleged to have been found in a Nautilus pompilus, from the Sulu Archipelago. It was lent to me by Mr. T.H. Haynes, of the Montebello Islands , north-west Australia , one of the pioneers of the pearl-shelling industry in Australia and the East Indies, who is now in England . This pearl was given to Mr. Haynes, about 1884, by a half-breed Chinaman named Oto, brother-in-law of the late Sultan of Sulu, Mohamed Budderuddin. I will make further research on this project.. No further reference to the pearl can be found.

The Sultan of Sulu heads the second oldest royal house on earth, dating in a continuous lineage to the early 1400s, just after the establishment of the Sultanate of Brunei, his cousin. Under Sultanate law, all large and unusual pearls found in his extensive domain had to be delivered to him expeditiously, upon pain of severe punishment for failure to do so. From the time of the Ming Dynasty in China, fleets of Chinese junks made annual voyages to Sulu to collect natural pearls, edible birds.

THE CHAMBERED NAUTILUS

The Nautilus pompilius takes its name from Latin, from Greek nautilos, sailor, from naus, ship. Pompilius comes from Latin for parrot, because of resemblance of the shell to a parrot.s head and beak when viewed from the side.

This animal belongs to the phylum Mollusca, a group of soft-bodied animals that usually secrete external protective shells, and includes snails, clams, and squids. The ventral portion of mollusks develops into a muscular portion, or foot, used in locomotion.

It belongs to the class Cephalopoda, or head-foot, characterized by a modification of the foot into the form of arms or tentacles, which gives them the general characteristics of being active and fast-moving. They are also considered the most intelligent of invertebrates, with well-developed senses and large brains. Both the ability to support high metabolic rate nervous systems and to move rapidly arises because of the amount of oxygen they can move rapidly throughout their bodies. They are the only mollusks with a closed circulatory system, including a primitive heart, which pumps blood that is colorless because the oxygen carrying molecule, hemocyanin, contains copper rather than the iron found in mankind.s hemoglobin. Their blood turns blue when exposed to air.

The Cephalopod class contains two living subclasses: in the Coleoidea the shell has been internalized or has disappeared entirely, as in octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish. In the Nautiloidea, the shell remains; and the Chambered Nautilus is the only living representative of the subclass.

Of all Cephalopods, the Chambered Nautilus is the most primitive of living species, with relatives that are abundant as fossils dating all the way back to the beginning of known fossil records on earth, some 600 million years ago. When most dominant, the Chambered Nautilus sometimes grew shells as long as thirty feet if uncoiled, and were predators at the top of the food chain. The Chambered Nautilus is commonly referred to as living fossils because of their identical structure to ancient forms. Interestingly, in 1981 the World Jewellery Confederation conferred gemstone status on Ammolite, a rare organic gemstone found along the slopes of the Rocky Mountains, and composed of the fossilized shells of ammonites, a relative of the Nautilus. Pearls, amber, ammolite, and coral are the only gems created from the animal kingdom.

Some 300 million years ago, evolution led to divergence from the external shell of the Nautilus, in favor of developmental lines leading to octopuses, squids, and cuttlefish, where the shell has either disappeared or become internal or vestigial. Most of the Nautiloidea became extinct, but the Chambered Nautilus has survived to this day.

They range from the Andaman Sea to Northern Australia, from Japan to Indonesia Nautilus pompilius pompilius, or the Emperor Nautilus is so named because of its large size, up to 270mm in diameter. A much smaller type, Nautilus pompilius suluensis, comes from the Sulu Sea and reaches a maximum 150mm diameter, or just over half the size.

The Nautilus floats by secreting gas, which resembles air but with less oxygen, into its shell. The shell has multiple chambers, and the animal only lives in the most recently added chamber. A stalk, which secretes the gas, extends back through the other chambers so they can be inflated if the animal wishes to ascend, or deflated if it chooses to dive. The Nautilus has modified its foot for both feeding and locomotion. It can suck water in and constrict the foot against its mantle to produce a form of jet propulsion. It has up to ninety tentacles which it uses to grasp prey to deliver to its mouth, or to attach to rocks while resting. During the day, it lives very deep, up to 3000 feet or more; but at night it ascends to shallower water to feed, normally finding its prey with a keen sense of smell. They feed on shrimp, fish, crabs, and carrion.

Probably one reason the Nautilus has become so rare is that they do not reach sexual maturity until age 15-20 years. They reproduce sexually by internal fertilization, with four of the tentacles on the males transferring sperm to the female.s mantle. They then lay oblong eggs of 1.5inches in length, but only a few each year, approximately a dozen. These eggs rank among the largest relative to adult size of any animal. and a newly hatched Chambered Nautilus has a small shell 1 inch in diameter.

Although since 1987 export of Nautilus shells has been banned, many nations continue to sell them. Slow growth rates, delayed maturity, and low fecundity are biological traits of an animal primed for extinction. With increasing fishing for squid and cuttlefish throughout its habitat, mankind may eventually eliminate what half a billion years of evolution found apparently ideal for life in the seas.

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