Where to Spot a Cephalopod

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There are many places around the Museum to find cephalopods, both ancient and modern. Here’s a quick tour.

Ep 6 Iridescent Ammonite
Some ammonites were formidable animals more than 2 feet in diameter, such as this spectacular 75-million-year-old specimen.

Ammonite in the Grand Gallery

Nautiluses have much in common with their ancient ancestors, ammonites. These shelled mollusks, which ranged from tiny organisms to animals with shells more than 2 feet in diameter, could be found in almost any part of the world’s oceans until they were wiped out by the same meteorite impact that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. The specimen on view in the Grand Gallery is more than 75 million years old.

Paper Nautilus

Argonaut in the Evelyn Miles Keller Memorial Exhibit (first floor)

The argonaut is sometimes known as a paper nautilus, in reference to its thin white shell. It is actually a species of octopus, and its “shell” is an egg case secreted by females of the species.

Giant Squid

Giant Squid in the Hall of Biodiversity

The giant squid model now hanging in the Hall of Biodiversity was acquired by the Museum in 1895, one of four created by Ward’s Natural Science Establishment of Rochester, New York. Another cast of the same squid was displayed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and remains at The Field Museum today. 

Squid and the Whale

The Squid and the Whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life

One of the Museum’s most dramatic dioramas depicts the life-and-death battle between a giant squid and one of its only known predators, the sperm whale. We know these deep-sea struggles occur because pieces of squid, such as their hard beaks, have been found in sperm whales’ stomachs. Sperm whale skin also frequently bears circular scars left by the toothed suckers on the squid’s tentacles.

Ep 6 Ancient Oceans
An exhibit in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life depicts life in a Cretaceous sea that covered present-day Tennessee and was home to ammonites.

Cretaceous Diorama in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life

In ancient oceans, like the Cretaceous-period seascape depicted in this diorama, ammonites were among the ocean’s most common inhabitants. As shown here, these cephalopods came in many different shapes and sizes. Above the large ammonite, you can also see belemnoids, another variety of extinct cephalopod.