By Monks N., Palmer P.
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Extra resources for Ammonites. London: The Natiral History Museum. 159 p
A few ammonites have smooth shells, like those of nautiluses. However, most have ornamented shells, with ribs, keels and spines. These are modifications of the shell produced by the mantle as the animal grew. The ribs may be fine or bold, simple or forked. In some species ribs run uninterrupted from the recessed centre of the shell (umbilicus)on one side of the shell over the ventral surface and up to the umbilicus on the other side. In other species longitudinal ridges, called keels, cut across the ribs along the ventral surface.
Solid objects are not greatly affected by water pressure, since they are non-compressible, and rocks and stones on the bottom of the sea have the same shape and volume as they would on dry land. The same holds true for water, which is also virtually non-compressible, and I kg (15 lb) of sea water has the same volume at the bottom of the ocean as it does at the surface. Hollow objects are very different, as gases compress readily with increasing depth. Manufactured structures tend to be hollow and filled with air, so are very sensitive to water pressure.
Adding chambers to a shell and then filling them with gas increases the volume of the animal without adding significantly to its weight. If the volume of water displaced is sufficiently great that the lift produced matches the weight of the animal, then it will neither float nor sink, but float in mid water. This is precisely what modern nautiluses and cuttlefish do, and presumably so did ammonites, allowing them to hold their position in the water column without actively swimming. In contrast, squids, lacking a chambered shell, usually weigh more than the water they displace, so tend to sink, and must swim continuously to stop sinking.
Ammonites. London: The Natiral History Museum. 159 p by Monks N., Palmer P.