Colour pattern polymorphism in Silurian nautiloid Phragmoceras Broderip, 1839


Authors: Turek V, Manda Š

Published in: Bulletin of Geosciences, volume 86, issue 1; pages: 91 - 105; Received 5 November 2010; Accepted in revised form 14 December 2010; Online 10 March 2011

Keywords: Cephalopoda, Nautiloidea, colour pattern, polymorphism, Silurian,

full text (PDF, 6.07 MB)

Export to RIS



Flamboyant colour pattern polymorphism documented in Silurian nautiloid Phragmoceras has not been observed in any other nautiloid genus. Two specimens of P. imbricatum Barrande, one from the early Ludlow of Bohemia and the second from the late Wenlock of England display quite different shell coloration: narrow, densely spaced longitudinal bands subparallel to the shell axis, combined with narrower transversal bands versus transverse bands running laterally obliquely to growth lamellae. Two additional types of colouration have been observed in several specimens of Phragmoceras from the early Wenlock and late Ludlow of Gotland. The colour pattern in P. eurystoma flexibile Hedström consists of zigzags bands around the whole circumference of the shell. In contrast, distinct colour bands following growth lines along the whole circumference of the shell, like that in the Cretaceous nautilid Eutrephoceras, are characteristic in P. dubium Hedström. If pigmentation pattern served as a form of crypsis, then the quite different types of coloration in Phragmoceras indicate different solutions of this problem. Colour pattern has been regarded as a useful tool also for taxonomic purposes in nautiloid cephalopods. Nevertheless, the colour polymorphism in Phragmoceras suggests the limited significance of this feature for the taxonomy of nautiloids. Some other remarkable cases of colour variations in Silurian nautiloids are discussed. Changes in colour pattern most probably correspond with depth inhabited; nautiloids that occupied shallow water environments display rather light coloured shells in comparison with forms inhabiting a deeper water setting.


Baliński,A. 2010 First colour-patterned strophomenide brachiopod from the earliest Devonian of Podolia, Ukraine. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 55, 695–700.View article

Bauchau, V. 2001 Developmental stability as the primary function of the pigmentation patterns in bivalve shells? Belgian Journal of Zoology 131, 23–28.

Barrande, J. 1865–1877 Systeme silurien du Centre de la Boheme, I. ere partie: Recherches Paléontologiques, vol. II, Céphalopodes. 1865, pls 1–107; 1866, pls 108–244; 1867, 712 pp.; 1868, pls 245–350; 1870, pls 351–460; 1870, 266 pp.; 1874, 804 pp.; 1877, 1505 pp.; 1877, supplement, pls 461–544; 1877 supplement, 297 pp. Self-published, Prague & Paris.

Barskov, I.S. 1989 Morfogenez i ekogenez paleozojskich cefalopod. 160 pp. Izdatelstvo Moskovskogo Universiteta, Moskva. [in Russian]

Blake, J.F. 1882 A monograph of the British fossil Cephalopoda. Part I. Introduction and Silurian species. 248 pp., 31 pls. London.

Blodgett, R.B., Boucot, A.J.&Koch, W.F. II 1988 New occurrences of color patterns in Devonian articulate brachiopods. Journal of Paleontology 62, 53–59.

Boettinger, A., Ermentrout, B. & Oster, G. 2009 The neural origins of shell structure and pattern in aquatic molluscs. PNAS 106, 6837–6842.View article

Broderip, W. 1839 Genus Phragmoceras. In Murchison, R.I. The Silurian system founded on geological researches in the counties of Salop, Hereford, Radnor, with descriptions of the coal fields and overlying formations, Part I. 768 pp. John Murray, London.

Clarke, A.H. 1978 Polymorphism in marine molluscs and biome development. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 274, 1–14.

Cook, L.M. 1998 A two-stage model for Cepaea polymorphism. Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society London B 353, 1577–1593.View article

Cowen, R., Gertman, R. & Wiggett, G. 1973 Camouflage patterns in Nautilus, and their implications for cephalopod paleobiology. Lethaia 6, 201–214.View article

Cox, L.R. 1960 Gastropoda – general characteristic of Gastropoda, 84–168. In Moore, R.C. (ed.) Treatise on invertebrate paleontology, Part I, Mollusca 1. Geological Society of America & University of Kansas Press, Lawrence.

Cox, L.R. 1969 General features of Bivalvia, 2–129. In Moore, R.C. (ed.) Treatise of invertebrate paleontology, part N, Vol. I, Mollusca 6, Bivalvia. Geological Society of America & University of Kansas Press, Lawrence.

Ferretti, A. & Kříž, J. 1995 Cephalopod limestone biofacies in the Silurian of the Prague Basin, Bohemia. Palaios 10(3), 240–253.View article

Foerste, A.F. 1926 Actinosiphonate, trochoceroid and other cephalopods. Denison University Bulletin, Journal of the Scientific Laboratories 22, 285-383.

Foerste, A.F. 1930 The color patterns of fossil cephalopods and brachiopods, with notes on gastropods and pelecypods. Contribution from the Museum of Paleontology University of Michigan 3, 109–150.

Gould, S.J. & Lewontin, R.C. 1979 The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 205, 581–598.View article

Habe, T. & Okutani, T. 1988 A new subspecies of living Nautilus (Cephalopoda, Nautiloidea) from the Sulu Sea. Venus – Japanese Journal of Malacology 47, 91–94.

Hedström, H. 1917 Üeber der Gattung Phragmoceras in der Obersilurformation, Gotlands. Sveriges Geologiska Undersökning, Ser. C 15, 1–35.

Hoagland, K.E. 1977 A gastropod color polymorphism: one adaptive strategy of phenotypic variation. Biological Bulletin 152, 360–372.View article

Hoare, R.D. 1978 Annotated bibliography on preservation of color patterns of invertebrate fossils. The Compass of Sigma Gamma Epsilon 55, 39–64.

Holland, C. & Stridsberg, S. 2004 Specific representation of the Silurian cephalopod genus Phragmoceras in Gotland and Britain. GFF 26, 301–310.

Hyatt, A. 1894 Phylogeny of an acquired characteristic. American Philosophical Society Proceedings 32, 349–647.

Hyatt, A. 1900 Cephalopoda, 502–592. In Zittel, K.A. & Eastman, C.R. (eds) Textbook of Palaeontology, vol. 1. 839 pp. Macmillan and Co., Boston.

Klug, C., Brühwiler, T., Korn, D., Schweigert, G., Brayard, A. & Tilsley, J. 2007 Ammonoid shell structures of primary organic composition. Palaeontology 50, 1463–1478.View article

Kobluk, D.R. & Mapes, R.H. 1989 The fossil record, function and possible origins of shell color Patterns in Paleozoic Marine invertebrates. Palaios 4, 63–85.View article

Kříž, J. 1992 Silurian field excursion: Prague Basin (Barrandian), Bohemia. National Museum of Wales, Geological Series 13, 1–111.

Manda, Š. 2007 New Silurian nautiloids Phragmoceras Broderip, 1839, and Tubiferoceras Hedström, 1917, from the Prague Basin (Bohemia). Bulletin of Geosciences 82(2), 119–131.View article

Manda, Š. 2008 Palaeoecology and palaeogeographic relations of the Silurian phragmoceratids (Nautiloidea, Cephalopda) of the Prague Basin (Bohemia). Bulletin of Geosciences 83(1), 39–62.View article

Manda, Š. & Frýda, J. 2010 Silurian-Devonian boundary events and their influence on cephalopod evolution: evolutionary significance of cephalopod egg size during mass extinctions. Bulletin of Geosciences 85(3), 513–540.View article

Manda, Š. & Turek, V. 2009 A Silurian oncocerid with preserved colour pattern and muscle scars (Nautiloidae). Bulletin of Geosciences 84(4), 755–766.View article

Manda, Š. & Turek, V. 2009 Minute Silurian oncocerids with unusual colour pattern (Nautiloidea). Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 54, 503–512.View article

Mapes, R.H. & Davis, R.A. 1995 The color pattern on a Cretaceous Nautiloid from South Dacota. Journal of Paleontology 69, 785–786.

Mapes, R.H. & Davis, R.A. 1996 Color patterns in ammonoids, 103–127. In Landman, N. (ed.) Ammonoid Paleobiology. Topic in Geobiology 13. Plenum Press, New York.

Mapes, R.H. & Evans, T.S. 1995 The color pattern on a Cretaceous Nautiloid from South Dacota. Journal of Paleontology 69, 785–786.

Mapes, R.H. & Hoare, R.D. 1987 Annotated bibliography for preservation of color patterns of invertebrate fossils. The Compass of the Earth Science Journal of Sigma Gamma Epsilon 65, 12–17.

Mapes, R.H. & Schneck, W. 1987 The oldest ammonoid “colour” patterns: descriptions, comparison with Nautilus, and implications. Palaeontology 30, 299–309.

Miller, A.K. & Furnish, W.M. 1937 Paleoecology of the Paleozoic Cephalopoda. Report of the Committee on Paleoecology 1936–1937, 54–63.

Reimchen, T.E. 1978 Substratum heterogenity, crypsis, and colour polymorphism in an intertidal snail (Littorina marinae). Canadian Journal of Zoology 57, 1070–1085.View article

Ruedemann, R. 1921 On color bands in Orthoceras. Bulletin New York State Museum 227, 63–130.

Saunders, W.B. 1987 The species of Nautilus, 35–52. In Saunders, W.B. & Landman, N.H. (eds) Nautilus. The Biology and Paleobiology of a Living Fossil. Plenum Press, New York & London.

Signor, P.W. & Brett, C.E. 1984 The mid-Paleozoic precursor to the Mesozoic marine revolution. Paleobiology 10, 229–245.

Stenzel, H.B. 1964 Living Nautilus, 59–93. In Moore, R.C. (ed.) Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, Part K, Mollusca 3. The University of Kansas Press, Lawrence.

Stridsberg, S. 1985 Silurian oncocerids cephalopods from Got land. Fossils and Strata 18, 1–65.

Sun, Y.L., Boucot, A.J., Blodgett, R.B. & Ran, W.Z. 1999 Color pattern on a martiniid brachiopod from South China. Journal of Paleontology 73, 973–976.

Swan, A.R.H. & Saunders, W.B. 1987 Morphological variation in Nautilus from Papua New Guinea, 85–103. In Saunders, W.B. & Landman, N.H. (eds) Nautilus. The biology and Paleobiology of a living fossil. Plenum Press, New York & London.

Sweet, W.C. 1964 Nautiloidea-Oncocerida, 277–319. In Moore, R.C. (ed.) Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, Part K, Mollusca 3, Cephalopoda. Geological Society of America & The University of Kansas Press, Boulder & Colorado.

Teichert, C. 1964 Morphology of the hard parts, 13–59. In Moore, R.C. (ed.) Treatise on invertebrate paleontology, part K, Mollusca 3. The University of Kansas Press, Lawrence.

Turek, V. 1990 Color patterns on Silurian and Devonian cephalopods of Central Bohemia, 81. In Abstracts 3rd Symposium of cephalopods: Present and past. Lyon.

Turek, V. 2009 Colour patterns in Early Devonian cephalopods from the Barrandian Area: Taphonomy and taxonomy. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 54, 491–502.View article

Turek, V. & Manda, Š. 2010 Variability of colour pattern and shell malformations in Silurian nautiloid Peismoceras Hyatt, 1884 Journal of the National Museum, Natural History 179, 171–178.

Vermeij, G.J. 1987 Evolution and escalation. 527 pp. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Ward, P.D. 1987 Natural history of Nautilus. 263 pp. Allen & Unwin, Boston.

Ward, P. & Saunders, W.B. 1997 Allonautilus: A new genus of living nautiloid cephalopod and its bearing on phylogeny of the Nautilida. Journal of Paleontology 71, 1054–1064.

Ward, P., Stone, R.,Westermann, G.&Martin, A. 1977 Notes on animal weight, cameral fluids, swimming speed, and color polymorphism of the cephalopod Nautilus pompilius in the Fiji Island. Paleobiology 3, 377–388.

Westerman, G.E.G. 1998 Life habits of nautiloids, 263–298. In Savazi, E. (ed.) Functional morphology of the invertebrate skeleton. John Wiley, London.