Field of Science

A Mystery Ammonoid

Münster's (1834) figure of Goniatites hybridus.

Looks like I drew another dud. For today;s semi-random post, I ended up tasking myself to write something about the Devonian ammonoid genus Heminautilinus. But as it turns out, there simply isn't that much to say about this genus, and what there is isn't really worth saying.

Heminautilinus was established as a genus by A. Hyatt in 1884. He diagnosed it as including "species with whorls similar to those of Anarcestes, but with angular lateral lobes in the adults", and designated George de Münster's (1834) Goniatites hybridus as type species on the basis of that author's original figure. The problem is that Münster's figure is apparently not very reliable; the original specimen was only fragmentary and Münster himself expressed uncertainty as to just what section of the ammonoid conch he had on hand. So Hyatt's assumption that Münster's species retained some juvenile features to maturity should not be considered reliable.

As a result, Hyatt's genus seems to have been pretty roundly ignored. Those authors who have made some speculation as to its identity have suggested that it is probably synonymous with some better known genus such as Cheiloceras or Imitoceras. This might present something of an issue because either one of these genera was published more recently than 1884, meaning that Heminautilinus should be considered the senior name. Because there would be little to be gained from replacing a familiar name with one that is all but forgotten, it seems most likely that, even if Heminautilinus' identity could be reliably established, it would be somehow suppressed. As such, Heminautilinus seems doomed to remain in obscurity.


Hyatt, A. 1883–1884. Genera of fossil cephalopods. Boston Soc. Nat. History, Proc. 22: 253–338.

Münster, G. de. 1834. Mémoire sur les clymènes et les goniatites du calcaire de transition du Fichtelgebirge Annales des Sciences Naturelles, seconde série, Zoologie 1: 65–99, pls 1–6.


  1. I take it it's clear it's not Goniatites?

  2. Doesn't seem to be in the mix. When Münster first named the species, Goniatites was the name for pretty much any goniatitid-like shell, so his inclusion of the species in that genus wouldn't really count for much.


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