Chambered Nautilus

Associated Smithsonian Expert: Michael Vecchione, Ph.D.

Dr. Mike Vecchione holding a dumbo octopus (Cirrothauma magna) brought up from the deep sea.

Photo by Amy Hedger

Dr. Mike Vecchione is a systematic zoologist whose research spans the entire scope of the natural history of cephalopods. His current focus is on deepwater cephalopods of the western North Atlantic, in U.S. waters as well as deep-sea and polar regions. He is also working on the evolutionary relationships of neocoleoids (all living cephalopods other than Nautilus) and uncovering details of their early life histories. Mike spends a lot of time at sea either leading or participating in deep-sea and polar expeditions on U.S. and foreign ships. By using lots of equipment, including submersibles and traditional net sampling, he is able to sample a broad spectrum of biodiversity. For example, he headed a team of researchers from 16 nations to conduct the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Ecosystem Project. For six weeks, they surveyed the mid-Atlantic Ridge, halfway between Iceland and Azores, to assess biodiversity, identify new species, and shed light on deep-sea food webs. As Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries National Systematics Laboratory, Dr. Vecchione is one of the many scientists from "affiliated agencies" assigned to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. He uses the National Collections, libraries and other museum resources for his research and serves as the agency expert on cephalopods. He also provides curatorial support for the cephalopod collections.

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This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.

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Snail (Indrella ampulla) defecating
Courtesy of Vipin Baliga, via Flickr: EOL Images, CC-BY-NC-SA


About Mollusks (Phylum Mollusca): Feeding

Most mollusks have a "radula", a ribbon made of chitin with rows of teeth (denticles). The radula is always used to feed, but how it is used varies widely. Radulas are specialized to the diets of mollusks, which range from fully carnivorous to entirely herbivorous. The radula may be used to filter, scrape, crush, cut, or stab, depending what food is eaten. Predatory murexes use the radula to drill holes into other mollusks, whereas limpets use it to scrape algae off rocks. The shape of the radula and denticles can be used to figure out what mollusk it came from. Nudibranchs that feed on corals have long, skinny denticles for scraping the thin layer of flesh off the coral skeleton. Queen conchs have a comb-like radula with thousands of tiny denticles for filtering small food from the water. Regardless, as denticles wear away, they are continuously replaced from top to bottom.