December 26, 2012

Maine boys try to throw lifeline to a lovely, overfished mollusk

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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The chambered nautilus has been around since prehistoric times, and Josiah Utsch and Ridgely Kelly are trying to ensure its continued survival by raising money and awareness for the creature’s plight.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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A nautilus stenomphalus in the Ribbon Reefs, part of the Great Barrier Reef off of Queensland, Australia.

Peter Ward photo

"I want to help save the nautilus," she wrote. "Here is $20 doolers." A 12-year-old girl named Sadie from Palm Beach County, Fla., created a list of websites of companies that sell nautilus shells. She sent the list to the boys, who put the information on their website.

Ward said more data is needed about the range and abundance of the nautilus to enable scientists to estimate its population and determine a sustainable catch.

Ward and other marine biologists are lobbying for protection of the nautilus under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the United Nations rules that combat illegal trade in species such as rhinos, tigers and elephants.

The boys, who went to Washington state recently to meet with Ward, will go to American Samoa in February to help with his study. Their parents will pay for the trip, and Ward will provide housing.

Ward said the boys will go scuba diving and help him determine how fast the nautilus can swim, and how long it takes it to reach its natural habitat, as much as 2,000 feet below the surface, after it is dropped at the surface.

He said the boys will monitor the creatures with radio transmitters attached to their shells.

Ward, 63, said he's impressed by the boys' passion for science, and their persistence and ability to work hard.

"They remind me of myself when I was young," he said.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com

 

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