• Ammonoidea;
  • septum;
  • suture;
  • stress;
  • function;
  • history

Pre- and post-19th century hypotheses relating hydrostatic pressure to the mechanical function of sutural complexity are compared. The old ideas gave rise to the 19th century ‘Buckland hypothesis’, which is in turn largely synonymous with the ‘Westermann model’. Buckland (1836) postulated that fluted septa buttressed the weak flanks of the phragmocone wall. Two new parameters are introduced to define the covariation between the strength of cylindrical segments of the wall flank bounded by the distance between adjacent lobe and saddle-flutes in transverse sections. The product of the index of wall strength (IWS) and this inverse support angle (ISA) predicts the buckling pressure in a cylinder of infinite length, and it implies that coiled nautiloids were more likely to be imploded via their whorl flanks than the apparently weaker oxyconic ammonoids. The widely used index of sutural complexity (ISC) measures the marginal corrugation which obscures this trend and acts as an elastic bed for both strong and weak walls. However, the ISC is more proportional to habitat depth than the buckling pressure when all other factors are constant. The central thickness of each fluted septum was increased in direct proportion to the distance spanned by the septum and the hydrostatic pressure on it in the ‘last septum’ position. The marginal thickness was maintained at a more constant value, which permitted the suture to increasingly act like a spring or shock absorber, as the wall thickness was enlarged during ontogeny. Both the ratios, between the central and marginal thicknesses and the closely related ISC, therefore, increased with shell diameter and habitat depth.