Septal fracture in Nautilus: implications for cephalopod paleobathymetry



    1. Department of Geology, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Brooklyn, N. Y. 11210, U.S.A., and Osborn Laboratories of Marine Sciences, New York Aquarium, New York Zoological Society, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11224, U.S.A.
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    1. Metuchen, N.J. 08840, U.S.A.
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Analysis of septal geometry, as embodied in the septal strength index model developed by Westermann (1973, Lethaia 6)., has become a prime avenue for estimating living depths of fossil cephalopods. We have examined the fracturing of Nautilus septa, and its bearing on strength index, by inducing septal rupture under the action of hydrostatic pressure. We found that: (1) septa which actually fail under pressure are not generally weakest as defined by their strength indices; (2) septal strength as defined by the strength index is not correlated with rupture pressure; and (3) most instances of septal failure originate in septal sutures, not in the septa. These results indicate that: (1) septal strength index does not yield wholly reliable strength or depth estimates; and (2) the shortcomings of the strength index model stem from its inability to account for complexities of mechanical failure in morphologically complex cephalopod shells.