Physical Description

Diagnostic Description


The argonauts or paper nautiluses (a misnamer, use of which must be discouraged) are very abundant in tropical to warm-temperate waters of the world. A large number of nominal species exists, but the group needs revision to verify the species, perhaps 6 to 8 in all. The family is monotypic. The "shell", actually in incubation chamber for the eggs, is popular among collectors because of its beauty, coloration, sculpture and fragility. The largest species, Argonauta argo, attains a maximum size of nearly 30 cm shell diameter, it enters fish markets in India and Japan when fortuitous oceanographic conditions cause mass aggregations so that large numbers can be captured. Normally it is non-schooling, solitary group. Sexual dimorphism very marked, with adult females relatively large, up to 10 to 15 times larger than adult males; hectocotylus of males autotomous (self-amputating) into the egg mass that is attached inside a large, external, calcium carbonate egg case ("paper nautilus shell") in which the female also resides, holding on to the case with extremely broad webs on the dorsal arms (l); suckers biserial; web weakly developed; no water pores; no shell vestige.
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Source: World Register of Marine Species


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Argonautidae is a family of cephalopods encompassing the modern paper nautiluses of the genus Argonauta along with several extinct genera of shelled octopods.

All eggcases possessing nodes, ribs, and a double keel, with the exception of those of Kapal batavus, have been assigned to Argonauta. Eggcases lacking these morphological features have been placed in the other Argonautidae genera.[1]

Fossil Argonautidae eggcases have been described from Japan, New Zealand, Sumatra, Europe, and California.[1]


Further reading[edit]

  • (German) Bandel, K. & W.-C. Dullo (1984). Zur Schalenstruktur fossiler und rezenter Argonauta-Gehäuse (Octopoda, Cephalopoda). Natur und Mensch: Jahresmitteilungen der Naturhistorischen Gesellschaft Nürnberg 1984: 33–38.
  • Kaseno, Y. (1955). Neogene Argonautinae from Kahoku-gun, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. Kanazawa University, Science Reports 3: 339–344.
  • Kobayashi, T. (1954). Izumonauta, a new genus of the Argonautinae, with a note on their rare but gregarious fossil occurrence. Japanese Journal of Geology and Geography 25(1–2): 21–34.
  • Kobayashi, T. (1956). A palaeo-meteorological interpretation to the occurrence of the Argonautinae in Province Kaga, central Japan. Japanese Journal of Geology and Geography 27(2–4): 93–104.
  • Lewy, Z. (1996). Octopods: nude ammonoids that survived the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary mass extinction. Geology 24(7): 627–630. doi:10.1130/0091-7613(1996)024<0627:ONATST>2.3.CO;2
  • Tomida, S., M. Shiba & T. Nobuhara (2006). First post-Miocene Argonauta from Japan, and its palaeontological significance. Cainozoic Research 4(1–2): 19–25.
  • (Japanese) Yanagisawa, Y. (1990). Age of fossil Argonautidae (Cephalopoda) from Hokuriku Province (central Honshu, Japan) based on diatom biostratigraphy. PDF Bulletin of the Geological Survey of Japan 41(3): 115–127.
  • Argonautidae at the Tree of Life Web Project

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