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Could ammonites swim? © iStock

Could ammonites swim?

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Ammonites had shells like a hollow cone, coiled around in a spiral, but were they as adept at swimming as their modern descendants?

Asked by: Richard Barker, Leamington Spa


Ammonites are a group of extinct marine molluscs and they were able to swim. Their shells are divided into chambers and most of the animal’s body sat in the outermost chamber, with just a single tube, called a siphuncle, extending backwards into the older chambers. The siphuncle diffused gas in and out of the shell chambers to adjust the buoyancy so ammonites could float in the mid-ocean.

Ammonites are related to modern squid and cuttlefish and probably swam backwards by squirting water from a siphon. The modern nautilus has a similar shell layout and lifestyle, although they aren’t closely related.


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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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