Hakai Magazine

Coastal science and societies

Nautilus riding a jellyfish

One Great Shot: Hitching a Ride

For the paper nautilus, a jellyfish provides the perfect floatie.

Authored by

by Mike Bartick

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paper nautilus riding a jellyfish

Drifting in the open ocean at night is nothing short of magical.

On this evening, in the Philippines’ Batangas Bay, I was treated to the sight of a female paper nautilus riding atop a jellyfish. A type of pelagic octopus rather than a true nautilus, Argonauta hians is often seen alone, hitchhiking on wood, bamboo, banana leaves, and even drifting trash. The jellyfish provides an ideal ride because its stinging cells protect the nautilus from predators—at least until the nautilus eats it.

Even on their perch, paper nautiluses swim fast, veering in all different directions. It’s a full speed chase to get around in front of them to capture an image. Shooting photos of them is comparable to chasing a butterfly at night.