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Genus: Nautiloid Cephalopod
Age: Devonian Period
Location Found: Erfoud, Sahara Desert, Morocco
Orthoceras, meaning “Straight Horn”, was a nautiloid cephalopod that lived more than 400 million years ago. Its name refers to the characteristic long, straight, conical shell these marine animals possessed. The soft body lived in the last open-ended segment at the large end of the conical shell, the preserved fossilised shell is all that remains of this ancestor of our modern-day squid. As the body grew and the housing segment became too small, a dividing wall, called the septa, grew to separate the old “home chamber” from the new one. The siphuncle is a tube that runs the entire length of the shell, through each of the chambers. In life the animal could adjust the gas pressure in these chambers and so move up and down through the water. An open chamber at the front of the shell provided living space for the animal where, if felt threatened, it could release a jet of water propelling itself backwards which would have served as a very quick retreat!
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