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Ammonite vs. Nautilus: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Ammonites are extinct marine mollusks with coiled shells, while nautiluses are their extant, similarly shaped but biologically distinct relatives.
Ammonite vs. Nautilus

Key Differences

Ammonites, which thrived during the Mesozoic era, are known for their spirally coiled shells, similar to the shells of modern nautiluses. However, unlike the nautilus, ammonites are extinct and were a more diverse group.
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The shell of an ammonite is typically more tightly coiled and complex compared to the simpler, smoother coil of a nautilus. Nautiluses have survived relatively unchanged for millions of years, whereas ammonites evolved into various forms.
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Ammonites played a crucial role in the marine food chain and are important in paleontology for dating rock layers. Nautiluses, on the other hand, are living fossils, providing insights into ancient marine life.
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While both ammonites and nautiluses belong to the cephalopod class, ammonites are more closely related to squids and octopuses. Nautiluses, with their distinct biology, are a separate lineage within cephalopods.
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The fossilized shells of ammonites are often found in various rock formations, showcasing their once-global presence. Nautiluses, however, are restricted to the Indo-Pacific region and are a rare sight today.
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Comparison Chart

E Period

Existed primarily during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, extinct for millions of years.
Still exists today, a living fossil.
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Shell Structure

Typically planispiral and can be tightly coiled or more open.
Always tightly coiled and planispiral.
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Shell Composition

Composed of aragonite; shows intricate patterns and often iridescence in fossilized state.
Made of aragonite but lacks the intricate external patterns seen in ammonites.
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Historical Significance

Ammonites are important index fossils, used to date geological layers.
Have remained relatively unchanged for millions of years, offering insights into ancient marine life.
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Ammonite and Nautilus Definitions

Ammonite

A symbol of the ancient Earth’s marine biodiversity.
The museum's ammonite collection showcases the variety of life forms that once existed.
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Nautilus

An inhabitant of the Indo-Pacific oceans, known for its unique appearance.
Divers often seek the elusive nautilus, a rare sight in the deep sea.
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Ammonite

A fossilized, coiled shell of an extinct marine mollusk.
The ammonite embedded in the rock was a remnant of a bygone era.
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Nautilus

A creature with a shell divided into chambers, used for buoyancy control.
The nautilus adjusts its buoyancy by regulating the gas and fluid in its shell chambers.
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Ammonite

An important index fossil used for dating geological formations.
Geologists identified the age of the strata by the type of ammonite found in it.
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Nautilus

A modern marine mollusk with a spiral, chambered shell.
The nautilus moved gracefully, its buoyant shell bobbing in the aquarium.
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Ammonite

A member of a group of marine cephalopod mollusks, widespread in the Mesozoic era.
Ammonites were once as abundant in the oceans as fish are today.
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Nautilus

A subject of scientific study for understanding ancient marine life.
Studying the nautilus helps scientists infer the behaviors of their extinct relatives, the ammonites.
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Ammonite

A member of a Semitic people inhabiting ancient Ammon, mentioned frequently in the Bible.
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Nautilus

Any of several cephalopod mollusks of the family Nautilidae of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, especially Nautilus pompilius, having numerous slender tentacles and an external coiled pearly shell divided into air-filled chambers. Also called chambered nautilus, pearly nautilus.
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Ammonite

The Semitic language of the Ammonites.
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Nautilus

The paper nautilus.
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Ammonite

An extinct cephalopod mollusk of the order Ammonitida of the Permian to Cretaceous Periods, having a thick, usually coiled shell characterized by intricate suture patterns where the septa between individual chambers join the outer shell wall.
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Nautilus

A marine mollusc, of the family Nautilidae native to the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, which has tentacles and a spiral shell with a series of air-filled chambers, of which Nautilus is the type genus.
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Ammonite

An ammonoid.
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Nautilus

A kind of diving bell that sinks or rises by means of compressed air.
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Ammonite

(paleontology) Any of an extinct group of cephalopods of the subclass Ammonoidea; a fossil shell of such an animal.
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Nautilus

The only existing genus of tetrabranchiate cephalopods. About four species are found living in the tropical Pacific, but many other species are found fossil. The shell is spiral, symmetrical, and chambered, or divided into several cavities by simple curved partitions, which are traversed and connected together by a continuous and nearly central tube or siphuncle. See Tetrabranchiata.
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Ammonite

An explosive prepared from a mixture of TNT and ammonium nitrate; a form of amatol, popular in Eastern Europe and China.
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Nautilus

The argonaut; - also called paper nautilus. See Argonauta, and Paper nautilus, under Paper.
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Ammonite

A fossil cephalopod shell related to the nautilus. There are many genera and species, and all are extinct, the typical forms having existed only in the Mesozoic age, when they were exceedingly numerous. They differ from the nautili in having the margins of the septa very much lobed or plaited, and the siphuncle dorsal. Also called serpent stone, snake stone, and cornu Ammonis.
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Nautilus

A variety of diving bell, the lateral as well as vertical motions of which are controlled, by the occupants.
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Ammonite

One of the coiled chambered fossil shells of extinct mollusks
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Nautilus

A submarine that is propelled by nuclear power
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Ammonite

A collector's item, often polished and used in jewelry.
The necklace featured a beautifully polished ammonite, sparkling with ancient history.
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Nautilus

Cephalopod mollusk of warm seas whose females have delicate papery spiral shells
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Nautilus

Cephalopod of the Indian and Pacific oceans having a spiral shell with pale pearly partitions
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Nautilus

A living example of a 'living fossil,' with minimal evolutionary change.
The nautilus is a testament to the resilience of certain life forms through geological time.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What is the habitat of a nautilus?

Nautiluses inhabit the Indo-Pacific ocean region.
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What distinguishes ammonite shells from nautilus shells?

Ammonite shells are more tightly coiled and complex, while nautilus shells are simpler and smoother.
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Are nautiluses extinct?

No, nautiluses are not extinct; they still exist today.
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What era did ammonites thrive in?

Ammonites thrived during the Mesozoic era.
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Can you find ammonites today?

No, ammonites are extinct, but their fossils are found in rock formations.
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Do nautiluses have a global distribution?

No, nautiluses are now restricted to the Indo-Pacific region.
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Were ammonites diverse in form?

Yes, ammonites evolved into various forms during their existence.
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What is the significance of ammonites in paleontology?

Ammonites are important index fossils for dating geological formations.
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How have nautiluses survived over the years?

Nautiluses have survived with little evolutionary change for millions of years.
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Are ammonites and nautiluses related?

They are both cephalopods, but ammonites are more closely related to squids and octopuses, while nautiluses are a separate lineage.
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How does a nautilus control its buoyancy?

A nautilus controls buoyancy through gas and fluid in its shell chambers.
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Were ammonites important in the ancient marine food chain?

Yes, ammonites played a crucial role in the marine food chain.
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Is the nautilus a subject of scientific research?

Yes, the nautilus is studied to understand ancient marine life and evolutionary biology.
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Are nautiluses considered living fossils?

Yes, nautiluses are considered living fossils due to their minimal evolutionary change.
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What is the ecological role of a nautilus today?

Nautiluses play a role in the current marine ecology, contributing to the biodiversity of the sea.
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What do ammonite fossils tell us?

Ammonite fossils tell us about the marine biodiversity and geological history of the Earth.
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Why are nautiluses rare to see in the wild?

Nautiluses are rare due to their limited habitat range and declining populations.
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Are ammonite fossils commonly found?

Yes, ammonite fossils are commonly found in various rock formations worldwide.
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Do people use ammonite fossils for any purpose?

Yes, ammonite fossils are often collected and used in jewelry.
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Can ammonites be used to determine the age of rock layers?

Yes, ammonites are often used as index fossils to date rock layers.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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