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Nautilus copulation


Jan 19, 2007
Hi all,

Here are some pictures of my nautiluses doing their thing.

I felt kind of rude taking the pictures while they were 'busy' - I admire their dedication, though, even with the flash they didn't stop!

In these pictures the male is on the right, or in the lower half - his tentacles are much thicker than the female's even though the body size is similar. I wonder if its sexual dimorphism to aid with grasping the female...

I've never seen copulation before so I was quite excited. I must say, it requires a certain type of delicate language to explain to people why they should drop what they're doing and come and look at your animals having sex.....


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as an aside, here's a picture of the size difference and pattern difference in an animal from the Philippines (small one) and from Vanuatu (the big one).


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yep, these are research animals at the MBL in Woods Hole. They're supplied by two wholesalers in California, but they can be hard to get - I waited about 8 weeks to get these guys.
Interesting. I never thought about the tentacle size and I am fairly certain that no dimorphism has been reported from nautilus. I will have to look at our nautilus a little closer.

How long have those nautilus been in captivity??

These guys have been my guests for only about 2 weeks.

Greg - do you have any suggestions about repairing buoyancy regulation in captive animals? These guys are floating, and although they seem quite healthy in terms of eating and mating (evidently), I want them to be able to swim downward through the water column as they would be able to normally. I'm guessing floating is an issue of shipping and fishing procedures - do you (or anyone else) know what exactly is the cause and whether I can do anything to help repair it?


As I recall you got about 6 of these guys several months back. You reported one dying from a possible infection but are the others still alive?

I have found that the term "mating" works pretty well, even with my granddaughter. There is a slight concern though, she (8 years) mentioned that our clown fish was "mating" with one of its hosting anemones yesterday.
yes, they're still all doing fine - the one that died appeared not to have been infectious to the others, which have grown quite a bit, and are chilling out in their tanks enjoying a lighter experiment schedule. They're at my 'normal' university in Brooklyn. These new guys are part of a summer research thing at the MBL.
Did you burp the nautilus upon introduction to the tank?? Even if you did, you may want to burp them once again. Sometimes air can get trapped in the mantle causing buoyancy problems. This problem is fixed easily by the burping.

Sever bouyancy problems are a result of the internal chambers inability to regulate the correct ratio of water to gas. Sometimes this is a result of shipping procedures. I am not aware of any successful treatments of the problem. You may try weighing the nautilus down for a couple of days in order to try and jump start the buoyancy mechanism as a result of increased pressure deeper in the tank though a mere 1-2m may not be adequate to aleviate the problem.

It has only been two weeks and I have observed nautilus that take about one month to properly adjust to captivity. Perhaps they just need more time.

I will try and get you some references.

I am unfamiliar with this 'burping' procedure (although it sounds highly amusing...). Normally when we put new animals in the tank we hold them funnel-up and then completely upside down for a few minutes to loosen any air that's in the body chamber - is this similar?

I was considering attaching some sort of weight to the underside of the shell to see if I could restore neutral buoyancy. Thanks for the suggestions - much appreciated!

dwhatley;99285 said:
I have found that the term "mating" works pretty well, even with my granddaughter. There is a slight concern though, she (8 years) mentioned that our clown fish was "mating" with one of its hosting anemones yesterday.

A couple of our seahorses were "at it" in the public aquarium (this was some years ago) wee fella of about three was watching goggle eyed.......what are they doing Mummy??? Oh they're friends hugging each other said Mum, wee fella looks at them for a second and then in a (very) loud voice says....YOU MEAN THEY'RE HAVING SEX?????
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