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  • José H. Leal

An Ancient "Paperclip"

It is hard to forget an animal whose common name evokes the shape of commonplace, mundane objects. Take for instance, hammerhead sharks, sea stars, stick bugs, skate rays, jackknife clams, saw fish, pear whelks, green bottle flies, and many others. The Paperclip “Squid” comes to mind as a great, simple name for a mollusk that really resembles that office device. The Paperclip “Squid,” Diplomoceras maximum, reached about 1.5 m (about 5 ft) in length, and was not a true squid, but a heteromorph ammonite, an ancient relative of squids and octopuses. It lived around 68 million years ago, at the very end of the Cretaceous Period, and its fossils have been found in Seymour Island, Antarctica.

Artistic reconstruction of Diplomoceras maximum by James McKay.

In a conference paper recently presented at the annual online meeting of the Geological Society of America, Linda Ivany and Emily G. Artruc, from Syracuse University, New York, discussed the ecology and growth rate in this curious species. Ivany and Artruc used an age and growth determination technique called stable isotope analysis, indicating that Paperclip "Squids" lived to be 200 years old, in stark contrast to modern cephalopod relatives such as octopuses and squids, which don't live longer than five years. (As a side note, in 2014 Wolfgang Grulke published a lavishly illustrated book dedicated to those crazy-shaped critters, titled “Heteromorph: The Rarest Fossil Ammonites,” now unfortunately out of print.)


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