Family Nautilidae

Fascinating Facts

  • Nautiluses live in the newest, outermost chamber of their shell, secreting a larger chamber and sealing off the older one as it grows.
  • They produce a siphuncle—a thin tube that goes back through each chamber and helps them control buoyancy and swim upright.
  • Their muscular hood partly closes their shell opening when hiding.
  • Octopuses are their only predator as they can crack their hard shell.
  • Nautiluses have simple, pinhole eyes that lack lenses and most likely form blurry images.
  • They are hunted for their shells, which are used in trinkets.


Nautiluses are nocturnal cephalopods that make vertical migrations from the benthic zone by day to the pelagic zone by night where they forage on crustaceans, carrion and small fishes. Food is captured by up to 100 retractable tentacles and passed to their mouth where a beak-like jaw tears it into pieces. Their radula, a file-like feeding structure, further shreds the food before it is swallowed.

Status in the Wild

Not yet assessed by IUCN


The nautilus lives on the bottom of the South Pacific and Indian oceans at depths of 200 to 2,000 feet (60 to 600 m).

Location in the Zoo

Invertebrates Zone of the Sculpture Learning Plaza

Animals & Exhibits