Japanese researchers confirm existence of flying squid Japanese researchers confirm existence of flying squid By Ida Torres / Japan Daily Press, February 8, 2013 Looks like Olympic Gold medalist Usain Bolt may finally have some competition. Japanese researchers published a study in German magazine Marine Biology about the ocean squid can fly more than 30 meters through the air at a speed of 11.2 metres per second. That’s .89 meters per second faster than the two-time 100m champion adjudged to be the “fastest man in the world”. Jun Yamamoto, from Hokkaido University says that the squid can fly that fast especially if it wants to escape predators. The mollusk bursts out of the ocean by shooting a jet of water at high pressure and then opens its fins to glide. Witnesses have already seen the flying squid and now this study will help people understand them more. Back in July 2011, Yamamoto and his team were tracking a shoal of 100 oceanic squid in the northwest Pacific 600 kilometres (370 miles) east of Tokyo when they came across the 20 centimetre (8-inch) oceanic squids that suddenly launched themselves in the air. Japanese researchers confirm existence of flying squid “Once they finish shooting out the water, they glide by spreading out their fins and arms. As they land back in the water, the fins are all folded back into place to minimise the impact,” they said in the report. The squid remains in the air for three seconds and travels upwards for about 30 meters. They believe it is a defense mechanism to avoid being eaten. But being out of the water leaves them vulnerable to other creatures that will look at them as food, like sea birds. Still, this finding shows that not all squids can be considered just creatures that live in water. [ via AsiaOne ]

By MARK BRAZIL

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Variety incarnate: The species pictured here hint at the extreme diversity of Japan’s mammal fauna. The Sea Otter (above) is a North Pacific species. The Tanuki is a native of East Asia. ©MARK BRAZIL/IMAGES OF JAPAN

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The Red Fox is found in the Holarctic ecozone, meaning the habitats found throughout the northern continents of the world as a whole. The Japanese Macaque (below) is endemic to Japan’s three main southern islands and Yakushima.?

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I came across my first bumblebees of the season as they were busily draining the nectar from a broad swath of Blue Corydalis. The delicate flower stems nodding in a light breeze looked delightful in the sunshine, while above them frothy willow catkins were yellow with pollen and here and there birches were presenting hints of fresh green.
Variety incarnate: The species pictured here hint at the extreme diversity of Japan’s mammal fauna. The Sea Otter (above) is a North Pacific species. The Tanuki is a native of East Asia. ©MARK BRAZIL/IMAGES OF JAPAN

Then an iridescent Japanese Fiddle Beetle scurried across my path before several Peacock Butterflies and a gorgeous Blue Admiral Butterfly fluttered by, seeming to daub splashes of vibrant color on the leaf-litter wherever they landed.

Next, I spotted an Eastern Crowned Warbler flitting through the birches — a newly arrived migrant from the south that seemed more to squeeze out, rather than sing, its compressed, buzzing spring refrain: “Peetsu peetsu bzee.”

Sunshine and a brief spell of warmth after recent rain and weeks of cold since winter ended had tempted them all forth — and me, too. As I tramped the trails of Nopporo Forest Park in Sapporo seeking new signs of spring, what struck me most were the fresh signs of aliens afoot.

For starters, in the soft muddy sand of a streambed I came across a trail of long-fingered and long-toed prints indicating the recent passage of a Northern Raccoon.

Introduced to Japan during the late 1970s, raccoons have spread, causing havoc both for native environments and agriculture. Along with the likes of the Taiwan Macaque, Pallas’ Squirrel and American Mink, they are one of several relatively recent perturbations in the diversity of Japan’s mammal fauna.

However, diversity in adversity and isolation define both the fauna and flora of Japan. Its geological history, shaped by major subterranean forces as it rides the confluence of four tectonic plates, means that the archipelago has had a very chequered history that has given it an extraordinarily diverse natural history and an impressive suite of mammals — thankfully, most of them not alien.

In fact, more than 130 nonmarine (i.e. terrestrial, arboreal and flying species) and 40-plus marine mammal species are known from Japan, though it’s not the numbers that are impressive but the different types of such animals that occur here.

Among these 170 or so species, for instance, there are a number of wide-ranging Holarctic species, such as the Red Fox and Brown Bear, in common with both North America and the great span of northern Eurasia. There are Palaearctic species too, such as the Eurasian Red Squirrel and Siberian Flying Squirrel, which range across Eurasia from Scandinavia to Hokkaido. Between them, these two groups lend an air of familiarity to Japan’s mammal fauna for European and American visitors.

Then there are the East Asian species, which are known from Japan and adjacent areas of the Asian continent, such as the Tanuki (Raccoon Dog) and the Sika Deer, which would be equally familiar to residents of northeast China, the Korean Peninsula, or eastern Russia.

But it is in the diversity of its more than 40 endemic species that Japan shows its true colors. These are species known only from Japan and nowhere else. Some range widely throughout several of the main Japanese islands, such as the Japanese Macaque, Japanese Hare and Japanese Giant Flying Squirrel; others occur only in small, isolated localities — and some only on small islands, such as the endemic Amami Black Rabbit.

Offshore, Japanese waters are also rich in marine mammal species. Seals, fur seals, sea lions, sea otters, dugong, dolphins, porpoises and whales range in their preferred habitats from the subtropical waters off the southernmost islands and the warm seas around southern Japan, to the cold current flowing south down the Pacific coast and the frigid waters of the Okhotsk Sea bordering Hokkaido.

Sadly, past human activity has already driven several species from Japan to extinction, including the River Otter and Japanese Wolf. Additionally, the more recent introduction of a number of “alien” species, such as Pallas’ Squirrel and the Northern Raccoon, may well lead eventually to further losses of native or even endemic species.

The fauna of an island group is constantly in flux, shifting and changing naturally over immensely long periods of time, whereas human-induced perturbations happen very quickly and cause considerable disruption. How is it, though, that Japan has such a wide range of ingredients in its mammal species “cake”?

At times the Japanese islands have been connected to the Asian continent, with the Sea of Japan a mere inland lagoon, and connections northward via what is now Sakhalin to northeast Asia and southward via what are now the Korean Peninsula and the island of Taiwan.

Through complex processes, involving both tectonic movements and the planet’s pendulum swing between glacial and interglacial periods, at times sea levels have risen and caused the isolation of parts of the archipelago as long ranges of mountains, or even as isolated mountain-top islands (the Nansei Shoto today), where species have evolved in isolation.

At other times, the same processes have caused sea levels to fall, reconnecting long-isolated lands to each other and sometimes to the nearby continent via land bridges across which continental mammals have been able to immigrate and expand their ranges, hence allowing the populations of species in once-isolated areas to meet and mix once more.

From Kyushu to Hokkaido, the Japanese archipelago is dotted with active volcanoes reprocessing the building blocks of the islands, with eruptions occurring on some scale in most years. Visit Kagoshima Bay or Mount Aso in Kyushu, or the Akan National Park of eastern Hokkaido, to view and imagine the island-shaping forces of past megaeruptions. In Japan, temblors are frequent, often on a daily basis, tearing at the bedrock of the islands.

Tsunami occur fairly often, too, perhaps even annually, though their scale varies enormously and very few, perhaps only one in a millennium, reach the towering proportions of that monstrous wave generated on March 11 this year. Added to all that, typhoons batter the islands, particularly in the southern half of the archipelago, many times each year.

Rains dash, winds batter, sun bakes and ice grinds. Under such adversity, and in prolonged isolation off the east of the Asian continent, Japan’s geological and climatological history have combined to shape the land and to produce a tremendous range of habitat types and ecological niches throughout its more than 3,000-km-long archipelago.

Japan spans subarctic regions with sea-ice in winter in the north, and subtropical regions with mangroves and corals in the south. Its altitudinal range is such that it presents multiple climatic zones at the same latitude, meaning that it’s possible to hike from broad-leaved evergreen forest up into the alpine zone in just a few kilometers.

As a result of these combined forces, Japan is home to a surprising array of mammal species — although almost a third of them are rather difficult to observe and identify, being mice, voles, rats, shrews and bats. But it is this considerable diversity, within the relatively small land area of Japan (approximately the same size as Germany, or slightly larger than New Zealand or the British Isles) that makes the mammals of Japan a fascinating pursuit.

Indeed, probe a little deeper and a tremendous regional variation among the country’s mammals emerges. Most of Hokkaido’s, for instance, are widespread species equally likely to be found in northeast Asia, with many not found further south in Japan. In contrast, most of the native mammals of the Nansei Shoto are endemic to those islands, and few species from the Japanese main islands range there.

Also, whereas Hokkaido shares affinities with northeast Asia, Nansei Shoto shares its with Taiwan and continental regions to the south and west. Meanwhile, in the main islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, almost 50 percent of the mammals are endemic.

The unique mammal fauna of Japan faces particular issues in this partly over-crowded nation. Unlike in many other countries, these issues do not really include hunting for sport (it’s an uncommon, limited and declining pastime), nor is there a bushmeat trade driving animal populations down.

Nonetheless, habitat loss is a critical issue. The Japanese lowlands are so intensely developed for agriculture, industry and urbanization that few areas of natural lowland habitat survive — which makes each one precious.

The mountainous areas are less developed or disturbed, providing more plentiful habitat for species able to survive at higher elevations, but even there, habitat loss, or degradation, are issues to consider.

More recently, and compounding the issue of habitat loss, the introduction of alien species is causing difficulties for native species. Alien species, whether introduced deliberately or accidentally, occupy important ecological niches in a previously natural ecosystem; they may become predators of native species (mammals or otherwise), or they may compete with them for valuable resources such as food, cavities, den sites and so on.

Certainly, the introduction of alien species has far-reaching implications for the native mammal fauna, and deserves considerable attention from the conservation community.

Wherever in Japan you call home, there is a suite of local mammals to seek out. Even city parks support their own small and not-so-small mammals. If any reader knows of a regular place to see or watch the Masked Palm Civet (hakubishin), or has any photographs of them, I would be delighted to hear from you.

Mark Brazil is a naturalist and author who organizes and leads wildlife, birding and photographic excursions around Japan. His books “Field Guide to the Birds of East Asia,” “A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Japan” and “The Birds of Japan” are available at good bookstores, or by contacting the author at markbrazil@world.email.ne.jp or via wildwatchjapan.com.

Source: Sunday, May 15, 2011 Japan Times 

By C.W. NICOL

Retrieved from Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 Japan Times

OLD NIC’S NOTEBOOK
Happy New Year of the Snake

Snakes in our woods:

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A tiger keelback Photo: C.W. NICOL AFAN WOODLAND TRUST

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Forest rat snake Photo: C.W. NICOL AFAN WOODLAND TRUST

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Japanese viper Photo: C.W. NICOL AFAN WOODLAND TRUST

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Japanese keelback Photo: C.W. NICOL AFAN WOODLAND TRUST

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Four-lined rat snake Photo: C.W. NICOL AFAN WOODLAND TRUST

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Japanese rat snake. Photo: C.W. NICOL AFAN WOODLAND TRUST

Before long now, coming hot on the tail of a Year of the Dragon, it will be a Year of the Snake in the Chinese zodiac; a year that’s supposed to be lucky. Obviously, though, you shouldn’t push your luck with any snakes you happen to meet up with at any time — especially conniving human ones in the grass.
Snakes in our woods (Top to bottom): A tiger keelback; forest rat snake; Japanese viper; Japanese keelback; four-lined rat snake; and a Japanese rat snake. C.W. NICOL AFAN WOODLAND TRUST

When I was a boy growing up in Britain, snakes fascinated me, although in the wild I only ever saw two kinds: the harmless grass snake and the venomous viper (or adder). There is another, very rare species in Britain called the smooth snake, but I never saw one. All three indigenous wild snakes there are strictly protected — which is not at all the treatment bestowed on serpents in Japan.

As far as I know, including sea snakes, there are 47 species of snakes in Japan — the most deadly of which is the Okinawan habu (pit viper).

If you wander around in the bushes at night in Okinawa, you’ll very likely meet up with one of these, so I would strongly caution against venturing out on nocturnal nature hikes because habu snakes have heat-sensors in their snouts that tell them to strike out at any warm body in the dark.

If you really are keen to study these snakes, it’s much easier to see what they look like by eyeing the ones that brewers leave to pickle in the bottom of some bottles of Okinawan awamori rice liquor. This yellowish reptilian cocktail is supposed to do all kinds of things to your libido if you drink it — I’ve tried it once, but all it did was make me rush to swill the taste away with another beer.

In our Afan Trust woods here in the Nagano Prefecture hills we have six kinds of snakes, the most venomous of which is the mamushi (Japanese viper). This is a small snake, rarely exceeding 80 cm in length, and it’s perfectly harmless as long as you leave it alone.

However, our forester Mr. Matsuki, who retired last year, has twice been bitten by these vipers, each time in the hand. I know for sure that the first time he had grabbed at the snake with the intention of sticking it in a bottle and filling it up with shōchū liquor. He doesn’t drink the stuff himself, but swears that viper-added liquor makes the best liniment ever.

The next time he got bitten was when, as he insists, he accidentally put his hand on a viper sunning itself on a rock by a stream. Mr. Matsuki (he says …) bent down to drink from the stream and accidentally rested his hand on the snake.

Each time he was bitten, he employed the classic snakebite first-aid response of slicing the punctured area open and sucking out and spitting out the blood and venom before tightly binding up his hand and driving to our local hospital. The last time, he got shots of antibodies for the venom and afterward he was very ill. He insists that it was the doctor’s jabs that sickened him, not the snakebite.

Mrs. Matsuki was very, very cross, so I don’t think there will be any more attempts to make viper liniment in that household.

The other venomous snake we have in our woods is the yamakagashi (tiger keelback), and full-grown these usually average between 60 cm and 1 meter long. This rather beautiful animal has small, venomous back teeth intended for rodents and frogs, so if you don’t go and stick your finger or anything else of that size down its throat, it won’t be worrying you.

Our biggest snake, which is also the most common in this country, is the aodaisho (Japanese rat snake — or green general) which can reach 2 meters or more in length.

Last summer, my 5-year-old identical-twin granddaughters were here from Canada, together with their mother (my oldest daughter) and her husband. The girls, like their parents, are fascinated by all wildlife, big and small. One day when the girls went to the woods with their mother, they ran ahead and vanished behind a large oak tree. When their mother caught up with them they were holding a large snake, which had a noticeable bulge in its belly. (Which was probably why it was slow and sleepy enough for the girls to grab it.)

Their mother let out a shriek — not that she’s scared of snakes, but she didn’t like seeing her little ones in their blissful ignorance holding out a big live one. The shriek alarmed the twins so they dropped the snake, which — no doubt even more alarmed — made a slithery escape into the grass and bushes.

“Mummy, you scared it!” came the protest.

“It was a snake! It might have bitten you!”

The twins shook their heads and looked at each other. “It was a girl snake,” they said, mistaking the bulge for pregnancy. “Girl snakes don’t bite other girls.”

My daughter asked me to talk to the twins, and I told them that there were some types of snakes in the woods with poisonous bites. But the twins wouldn’t listen to granddad either, and just repeated that girl snakes never bite other girls. I also tried to tell them that the aodaisho gets pregnant with eggs, which don’t show as a single big bulge, and that the bulge was probably caused by an ingested rat. No matter, the girls just shook their heads.

“Mr. Matsuki was bitten twice by snakes in these woods,” said I.

“That’s because he’s a boy,” came the reply.

I gave up, for this time anyway. Arguing with one little girl is bad enough, but have you ever tried arguing with two of them who look exactly the same? It’s frustration in stereo!

Another kind of snake in our woods is the native shima hebi (Japanese four-lined rat snake, or Japanese striped snake), which can reach 1.5 meters in length and is very attractive with its yellow underjaw and four distinct lines down its body.

We also have 70 cm-to-1 meter jimuguri (forest rat snakes), which have a beautiful orange coloring with dark stripes; and the rather rarer hibakari (Japanese keelback), a small (up to 40 cm long) species that’s pale orange in color.

We welcome the presence of snakes, because they help keep down the mice and voles that do a lot of damage in the winter when they chew on the roots of the trees we have planted. Also, because of the various ponds and waterways we have made, we have lots of frogs.

I honestly do believe that snakes are beautiful — but never even try to stroke or fondle the harmless ones, female or otherwise, let alone their venomous cousins.

And best wishes to all Notebook readers for a happy and fruitful Year of the Snake, which comes round on Feb. 10.

‘Stuff of legend’: Giant squid filmed in Pacific depths—Japan scientists

This video image, taken from footage by NHK and Discovery Channel in July 2012 and released on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, shows a giant squid, up to eight meters (26 feet) long, against the backdrop of dark oceanic depths at a depth of 630 meters (2,067 feet) in the sea near Ogasawara islands, 1,000 km south of Tokyo. AFP PHOTO/NHK/NEP / DISCOVERY CHANNEL

By Shingo Ito
Business Inquirer, Monday, January 7th, 2013

Agence France-Presse TOKYO—Scientists and broadcasters said Monday they have captured footage of an elusive giant squid roaming the depths of the Pacific Ocean, showing it in its natural habitat for the first time ever.
Japan’s National Science Museum succeeded in filming the deep-sea creature at a depth of more than half a kilometer (a third of a mile) after teaming up with Japanese public broadcaster NHK and the US Discovery Channel.
The massive invertebrate is the stuff of legend, with sightings of a huge ocean-dwelling beast reported by sailors for centuries.
The creature is thought to be the genesis of the Nordic legend of Kraken, a sea monster believed to have attacked ships in waters off Scandinavia over the last millennium.
Modern-day scientists on their own Moby Dick-style search used a submersible to descend to the dark and cold depths of the northern Pacific Ocean, where at around 630 meters (2,066 feet) they managed to film a three-meter specimen.
After around 100 missions, during which they spent 400 hours in the cramped submarine, the three-man crew tracked the creature from a spot some 15 kilometers (nine miles) east of Chichi island in the north Pacific.
Museum researcher Tsunemi Kubodera said they followed the enormous mollusc to a depth of 900 meters as it swam into the ocean abyss.
NHK showed footage of the silver-colored creature, which had huge black eyes, as it swam against the current, holding a bait squid in its arms.
For Kubodera it was the culmination of a lengthy quest for the beast.
“It was shining and so beautiful,” Kubodera told AFP. “I was so thrilled when I saw it first hand, but I was confident we would because we rigorously researched the areas we might find it, based on past data.”
Kubodera said the creature had its two longest arms missing, and estimated it would have been eight meters long if it had been whole. He gave no explanation for its missing arms.
He said it was the first video footage of a live giant squid in its natural habitat—the depths of the sea where there is little oxygen and the weight of the water above exerts enormous pressure.
Kubodera, a squid specialist, also filmed what he says was the first live video footage of a giant squid in 2006, but only from his boat after it was hooked and brought up to the surface.
“Researchers around the world have tried to film giant squid in their natural habitats, but all attempts were in vain before,” Kubodera said.
“With this footage we hope to discover more about the life of the species,” he said, adding that he planned to publish his findings soon.
Kubodera said the two successful sightings of the squid—in 2012 and 2006—were both in the same area, some 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo, suggesting it could be a major habitat for the species.
The giant squid, “Architeuthis” to scientists, is sometimes described as one of the last mysteries of the ocean, being part of a world so hostile to humans that it has been little explored.
Researchers say Architeuthis eats other types of squid and grenadier, a species of fish that lives in the deep ocean. They say it can grow to be longer than 10 meters.
NHK said it and the Discovery Channel are scheduled to air special documentaries on the find later this month.

Watch the news report in English here and in Japanese here.

In this photo released by Tsunemi Kubodera, a researcher with Japan’s National Science Museum, a giant squid attacking a bait squid is pulled up by his research team off the Ogasawara Islands, south of Tokyo, on December 4, 2006.
Photograph courtesy Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum of Japan/AP

The giant squid remains largely a mystery to scientists despite being the biggest invertebrate on Earth. The largest of these elusive giants ever found measured 59 feet (18 meters) in length and weighed nearly a ton (900 kilograms).

However, their inhospitable deep-sea habitat has made them uniquely difficult to study, and almost everything scientists know about them is from carcasses that have washed up on beaches or been hauled in by fishermen. Lately, however, the fortunes of scientists studying these elusive creatures have begun to turn. In 2004 researchers in Japan took the first images ever of a live giant squid. And in late 2006, scientists with Japan’s National Science Museum caught and brought to the surface a live 24-foot (7-meter) female giant squid.

Giant squid, along with their cousin, the colossal squid, have the largest eyes in the animal kingdom, measuring some 10 inches (25 centimeters) in diameter. These massive organs allow them to detect objects in the lightless depths where most other animals would see nothing.

Like other squid species, they have eight arms and two longer feeding tentacles that help them bring food to their beak-like mouths. Their diet likely consists of fish, shrimp, and other squid, and some suggest they might even attack and eat small whales.

They maneuver their massive bodies with fins that seem diminutive for their size. They use their funnel as a propulsion system, drawing water into the mantle, or main part of the body, and forcing it out the back.

Scientists don’t know enough about these beasts to say for sure what their range is, but giant squid carcasses have been found in all of the world’s oceans.

Source: National Geographic Wild

Kamemushi / Stinkbug

Japan is home to a number of terrifying insects, such as the mukade, a giant venmous centipede with a sting that can be fatal to children and the elderly, or the suzumebachi (Asian Giant Hornet), which actually kills a handful of people every year.

But perhaps no insect in Japan is feared more than the kamemushi, commonly referred to in English as the stinkbug. While you can easily drop centipedes and hornets with a good dose of pesticide or a well-timed smack of the shoe, it is in death that kamemushi is feared the most.

You see, when you kill a stinkbug, it stinks. It stinks a lot, which is why most Japanese people gently pick them up with a tissue and throw them outside or roll them up in tape so they can’t move and dispose of them in the trash.

Recently, a team of amateur Japanese “researchers” decided to make that unholy stink of the stinkbug the subject of their latest study, which asks the question: “Can kamemushi be knocked unconscious by the smell of their own fart?

Now technically, as a video posted to YouTube documenting the study proceeds to explain, the kamemushi’s odor isn’t coming from their bowels but actually from a liquid secreted from glands located on their thorax. This liquid is used to deter predators and, as many people know too well, is sometimes also released when the kamemushi is fumbled around or squished.

The research team posits that this odor can also be harmful to the kamemushi itself, and that when a large number of the insects are crammed into a small container and made to release the odor simultaneously, they will pass out.

The video begins by showing the team prepare for the experiment by setting up two plastic “pass out” chambers, one equipped with a Plasmacluster air purifier (left) and the other without (right).

The team then transfers a total of 80 kamemushi into each chamber, seals the lid with tape and starts the timer.

The video skips ahead to 19 minutes later and it seems that even the air purifier provided little respite for the kamemushi as the bases of both chambers were covered with fallen insects struggling to remain conscious among a thick fog of their own stench.

The video wraps up with the succinct conclusion: “The fart of kamemushi is incredible!”

Perhaps or more fitting conclusion would be: “Don’t trust Plasmacluster air purifiers.”

So did the kamemushi really pass out from their own odor?

One Japanese site offers the following explanation:

Kamemushi emit a foul odor to protect themselves from predators. The source of this odor is an oily liquid that is secreted from glands between the kamemushi’s legs. This liquid contains a toxic component known as aldehyde that causes predators to faint. If a kamemushi is left in a small container over a period of time, that same poison will spread through its own body, paralyzing its functions and causing it to lose consciousness. Though the kamemushi should return to normal if the lid is opened soon after, it will die if the lid is left on. Furthermore, if multiple kamemushi are placed in a small container, the odor emitted by a single kamemushi will act as a signal warning that a predator is near, prompting the other kamemushi to release their own odor. As a result, all of the kamemushi in the container will lose consciousness.

And there you have it. They say that everyone likes their own brand, but it looks like the kamemushi’s toxic funk is a threat to even itself.

Finally, for those of you who have never actually encountered a stinkbug, we’d like you to take a moment to watch the following footage to get an idea of how foul the smell released by kamemushi is:

RocketNews24,Mar 2, 2012

More than 800 crown-of-thorns were left high and dry

‘Starving’ crown-of-thorns starfish in mass stranding
By Ella Davies
Reporter, BBC Nature

Hundreds of crown-of-thorns starfish found on a beach in southern Japan in January stranded themselves because they were starving, say researchers.

More than 800 were discovered on a 300m stretch of sand on Ishigaki island.

The starfish population “outbreak” was first identified in 2009, when masses of juveniles were seen feeding on the island’s outer coral reef.

The coral-eating starfish then took three years to move onto the beach where they perished.

The reason for the starfish population boom is not clear, but the strange behaviour has shown marine scientists what can happen when these slow-moving creatures completely deplete their food source.

“The shortage of food, corals, is a probable cause of the stranding,” said Go Suzuki from the Fisheries Research Agency, who witnessed the phenomenon from his research station.

In a paper, published in the journal Coral Reefs, Mr Suzuki and colleagues described how an area once covered with up to 60% coral was reduced to 1% by the voracious starfish.

The marine scientists described how the starfish gradually moved closer to the beach, possibly in search of more coral to feed on.

Mr Suzuki suggested that the current may have helped the starfish along their doomed path, pushing the animals towards the shore.

Noting that they died on the beach, rather than in the water, the team concluded that when the starving starfish were eventually washed up they were too weak to return to the sea.

Crown-of-thorn facts

  • The multi-armed starfish are named for the protective venomous spines that cover their surface like a crown
  • The predators extrude their stomachs in order to feed. They liquefy their prey with digestive juices, absorb the nutrients and then suck their stomachs back in
  • Adults can consume as much as six square metres of living coral reef per year

Watch the ‘predatory pin cushion’s’ attack closeup

***

Further readings, information:

Crown-of-thorns starfish videos

“(Mainichi Japan) April 04, 2012″

The Gozenzawa snow ravine where Japan’s first glacier was confirmed, pictured at left, is seen in this aerial photograph. (Mainichi)
拡大写真

Mainichi Japan April 04, 2012
A body of ice found by museum officials in the Tateyama mountain range in Japan’s Northern Alps has received official recognition from the Japanese Society of Snow and Ice as Japan’s first glacier.
Previously it was thought that there were no glaciers in East Asia south of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.
“Confirming the existence of a glacier in a warm place like Japan is a major find,” said Yoshiyuki Fujii, 67, former chairman of the society. The finding will be published in the May issue of the society’s journal.
The Japanese Society of Snow and Ice is the only body in Japan that confirms glaciers. It is believed that the Tateyama mountain range’s large snowfall in the winter and low summer temperatures created the right conditions for a glacier to form in the area.
The Tateyama Caldera Sabo Museum started investigating the area in 2009, drilling holes through 15 to 20 meters of surface snow to reach the body of ice, and then inserting poles into the gaps. In September and October last year, GPS measurements were taken to determine the distance the ice had traveled. They found that the ice had moved between 7 and 32 centimeters around the San no Mado and Komado ravines of 2,999-meter Mount Tsurugi, and the Gozenzawa ravine of 3,003-meter Mount Oyama. The data was examined by the Japanese Society of Snow and Ice, which officially recognized the body of ice as a glacier on April 1.
Keishi Ishimoto, the 64-year-old editor-in-chief of the society’s journal and an adviser at the Hokkaido branch of the Japan Weather Association commented, “Various people have conducted investigations in different spots, but hadn’t been able to confirm anything. Using the latest equipment to obtain concrete data was what led to confirmation this time,” he said.

By Kevin Short

Kevin Short / Daily Yomiuri Columnist

Here comes Peter Cottontail / Hopping down the Bunny Trail / Hippity-hoppity Hippity-hoppity / Easter’s on its way.

This is a little nursery rhyme I remember from my childhood. I don’t know if it is a traditional song, or if someone around me just made it up on the spot. The association of Easter with hares and rabbits, however, is close and undeniable.

Easter, which celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, dominates the Christian spring calendar. The date is set as the Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox. Depending on the timing of these celestial events, Easter can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25. This year, the equinox just passed this last Tuesday, but with the moon new today the next full doesn’t arrive until Saturday, April 7. The following day will be Easter Sunday.

Although a major event in the liturgical calendar, Easter is also clearly an ancient celebration of spring that is much older than the Christian tradition. The very name Easter is believed to come from Eastre, or Ostare, a pre-Christian pagan goddess of spring. As is so often the case, the sacred motifs associated with the original pagan celebration, in this case eggs and hares, have been carried on into the modern festival.

Eggs are clearly a symbol of rebirth, a new cycle of the natural world exploding to life after the long cold months of winter. Spring is also the time of year when hares and rabbits begin their breeding season. Males energetically chase each other back and forth, and actively court the females. The old English adage “mad as a March hare” is based on this agitated behavior exhibited during the spring mating season–just witness the babbling insane antics of Lewis Carol’s memorable character the March Hare in Alice in Wonderland.

Hares and rabbits are classified in the Order Lagomorpha, a group of exclusively herbaceous grazing mammals with two sets of long, chisel-like incisors in the upper jaw. These teeth continue to grow throughout the animal’s lifetime, and are kept honed by constant use in cutting through tough plant food. Long ears and powerful rear legs are essential for detecting and escaping from their many enemies, which include foxes, wolves, wildcats, weasels, hawks and owls.

Although many people think of rabbits and hares as just different names for the same animals, they actually comprise two distinct families within the Lagomorpha. Most rabbits (genus Sylvilagus, ana-usagi in Japanese) dig nesting burrows, and their young are usually born blind and naked. Hares (genus Lepus, nousagi in Japanese), in contrast, give birth in simple grass nests, always well hidden inside a dense thicket. Their young arrive fully furred and with their eyes open. They quickly learn to fend for themselves.

The countryside of northern Europe and the British Isles, as well as the Appalachian Mountain region of North America, often features a landscape dominated by open pastureland bordered by hedges and coppice woods. Although this is a cultural rather than truly natural landscape, it provides ideal feeding and breeding habitat for rabbits and hares. The closely cropped pastures offer up a continuous supply of new plants, which these animals thrive on, while the hedges and woods serve as perfect places to hide and reproduce in.

The March hare that so frustrated Alice was probably a European hare (L. europaeus) or mountain hare (L. timidis). The Peter Cottontail in my nursery rhyme is the eastern cottontail (S. floridanus), a common species of rabbit native to eastern North America. These rabbits were incredibly numerous in the dairy farming country of the Appalachian Mountains where I lived as a boy. In fact, they formed the central core of a rich countryside food chain topped by foxes and medium-size birds of prey.

Here in the southern Kanto region, the local lagomorph is the Japanese hare. This species is endemic to Japan, which means that the hares are found here and nowhere else, and is native to the islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. On Hokkaido, however, the Japanese hare is replaced by the yuki-usagi, a subspecies (L. t. ainu) of the widely distributed mountain hare.

To an American used to seeing rabbits all over the place, the Japanese hare seems an exceedingly shy and elusive creature. Almost totally nocturnal, actual daytime glimpses are rare. Only tracks and scats in the fields, and an occasional half-eaten carcass, attest to a healthy local population.

Hare and rabbit tracks are distinctive, consisting of a set of two long prints made by the rear legs and two much shorter prints produced by the front. Contrary to reason, the animal is always traveling in the direction of the rear prints. Hares and rabbits land first on their two front feet, then swing their big rear legs all the way in front to generate a powerful push-off.

Hare scats are mounds of small pellets, about a centimeter or so in diameter. You can break them open to confirm that the hares are total vegetarians.

These scats are the end product of a unique digestion system. Lagomorphs pass rough fibrous plant food through their intestines once, then reingest their first set of feces, passing the food through a second time to extract more nutritional value before eliminating the final type of scats found in the field. A gardener friend of mine swears that these dried hare pellets make the best natural fertilizer for potted plants and vegetables.

Short is a naturalist and cultural anthropology professor at Tokyo University of Information Sciences.

(NATURE IN SHORT / Rabbits or hares? The differences between 2 springtime animals, Mar. 22, 2012)

An ode to Japan’s magnificent Sika Deer

By MARK BRAZIL

Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012

 

WILD WATCH

An ode to Japan’s magnificent Sika Deer

Happiness is being herd: A group of female Sika Deer graze in winter sunlight. MARK BRAZIL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By MARK BRAZIL

Deep powdery snow is to a Sika Deer what a stage covered with fluffy feather pillows would be to a top-ranking ballerina. Both lead to loss of grace and floundering, for slim-footed deer and ballerina alike.

 

Where narrow-hooved deer sink and flounder in snow, by way of contrast wild boar plough like manic bulldozers leaving deep furrows in the snow. Hares, with large hind feet, and densely furred toes giving them broad surfaces like mini-snowshoes, skim fleet-footed over the snow, as did the elf Legolas in JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

In southern Japan, the image of Sika is of a small, rather delicate creature, whereas in the north, where I live, they are large and more heavily set. Despite regular visits to the southern islands, I am nevertheless surprised each time by the difference in size between the northern and southern populations.

Southern Sika are darkly pelaged in reddish-brown. They are diminutive animals of forest and forest edge, spending much of their time browsing anonymously in the dark forests of the Laurelacaea trees that predominate there. The smallest of all live on the southernmost islands: Kerama, off Okinawa, and Yakushima, south of Kyushu. On Yakushima, they share their range with the southernmost Japanese Macaques and live with them in a loosely symbiotic way, as do Spotted Deer and Common Langurs in India.

Monkeys and deer alike live in social groups and quickly give alarm calls when disturbance or danger threaten. Deer and monkeys each understand and respond to the other’s alarms. It is the deer that reap the further benefit though, because monkeys are messy eaters. As macaques climb into trees they select only certain leaves or fruits up in the canopy and they send a steady rain of detritus, discarded leaves and the like, to the forest floor below.

To the deer, the miraculous appearance of fresh food from above must seem like manna from heaven, a kind of cervine fantasy on a par with Judi and Ron Barrett’s tale in their book “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and the 2009 computer-animated comedy fantasy film based on it.

Miraculous provisioning is not confined only to the deer on Yakushima, and though macaques are not usually involved elsewhere, another kind of primate is: With the passion that human visitors here have of feeding living creatures at tourist spots, deer that overcome their shyness sufficiently to approach are guaranteed handouts.

A little further to the north of Yakushima, but belonging to the same national park, the Kirishima mountain range of Kyushu is home to another, only slightly larger subspecies of deer.

In many parts of Kirishima’s forest, the only signs of deer are their sharply whistled alarm calls, the sound of hooves and if lucky a glimpse of their large white rump patches neatly framed with black as they dash away in fright. At some spots, though, regular visitor handouts have drawn deer out from the forest and some have become confiding enough to take proffered food from visitors. The same has happened at Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima and at Nara.

Moving northward through the Japanese archipelago, Sika Deer populations, recognized by biologists as separate subspecies, become increasingly large, and to my eye paler brown. All of the subspecies share a number of fundamental features in common, and in fact these familiar characteristics are to be found in most other deer species too.

The males grow a fine set of antlers that they use essentially for bluff and bravado during the autumn rut, though sometimes they are also used for outright clashes. Then, the clattering and rattling sound of the antlers of jousting stags is dramatic indeed. The males strut and pose with their fine racks of antlers, hoping to oust their competitors in the race to pass on their genes. The larger-bodied males with larger antlers dominate, give stirring territorial calls and gather about them a harem of females with which they mate.

After the seasonal rut, when the extra burden of their spreading antlers no longer serves a purpose, the stags drop them, like a deciduous tree shedding its leaves. The fallen antlers become an important source of minerals for other creatures. Should you find one on the forest floor, inspect it closely and you’ll almost certainly find the tiny tooth marks indicative of rodents gnawing there, or perhaps even larger tooth marks of a fox, badger or deer. It’s tempting to take fallen antlers as decorations, but they serve a better purpose left on the forest floor, where their minerals are consumed or eventually leach back into the soil.

It is this characteristic, of growing a new set of antlers each year and dropping them again, that distinguishes deer immediately from other animals with horns, such as sheep, goats, cattle and antelopes. Those animals, unlike the deer, have simple, nonbranching structures of bone, covered with keratin, on their foreheads and they keep them throughout their lives.

While male and female deer differ in that males have antlers and females don’t, they each have similarly short tails, which they raise when disturbed, and white fur on their rump, which they fluff out in alarm. The combination of raised tail and fluffed white bottom makes for a strong visual signal, especially in a shady forest or poor light, allowing disturbed herd members to follow one another easily. They also share a sharp, whistled alarm call, which, despite having heard it innumerable times, still gives me a jolt of surprise.

If you have only encountered deer in Japan in the parks in Nara or on Miyajima, then it is only the most approachable of deer that you have encountered. These are in fact deer with attitude: They don’t just hope for food; they expect it. If you don’t provide it, they are quite likely to steal your map or pamphlet from your hand or pocket. Never, ever, put down an open bag in sight of these particular deer, as that is giving them a confirmed invitation to dinner!

 

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A stag, sporting a fine rack of antlers, feeds on maize kernels put out for cranes in the village of Tsurui in eastern Hokkaido.

 

Some others of Japan’s deer are wild, nervous of hunters, but increasing in numbers — I am talking about the deer in Hokkaido.

Last weekend I arrived at my favorite pension in west Hokkaido to find myself immediately welcomed to the shōchū bottle and embroiled in a debate about the fate of deer here, and more importantly what we should do about them. It’s a serious subject up here, as the deer population is perceived as exploding out of control, causing damage to agriculture and vehicles, and to life and limb on the island’s road and rail networks.

Always willing to stir up trouble, I suggested that reintroducing wolves might help — as the deer’s only native predator was exterminated a little over a century ago.

Then I was struck with another idea: Just to the west, on the Russian mainland and along its border with China, the few remaining Siberian Tigers left on earth are battling to survive against increasing odds of extinction from poaching and habitat loss. How about solving two problems in one? Help save the tiger by translocating Siberian Tigers to Hokkaido — the habitat is very similar — and help reduce the deer population by introducing a predator. One could even help the flagging tourist trade, by operating tiger-watching tourism in Japan (why should India have all the fun?). Of course, this off-the-wall idea is untenable in a number of ways: Imagine trying to obtain local community consensus for introducing tigers in their forests. But don’t throw out the idea entirely; at least not yet.

In New Zealand, deer were initially introduced as game animals, and once their population became out of control, various methods were attempted to control them. One involved fencing them in and farming them for velvet, antler, bone, skin and meat for international markets extending from Europe to China.

Something similar could be done in Hokkaido on a commercial scale by fencing in some of the wild Sika. Then in some large fenced areas with plenty of deer, Siberian Tigers could be introduced. Now wouldn’t that be a sight — to watch a striped tawny-orange beast stalking deer through the snowy wastes of Akan or Daisetsuzan national parks! If there were tigers around, perhaps folk wouldn’t worry so much about the deer.

Mark Brazil is a naturalist and author who has written Wild Watch for 29 years and is the founder of Japan Nature Guides. His books “Field Guide to the Birds of East Asia,” “A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Japan” and “The Birds of Japan” are available at good bookstores, or via markbrazil@world.email.ne.jpor www.wildwatchjapan.com.

Morus alba (White Mulberry)

There are two common mulberry tree species, the red mulberry (Morus rubra) and the white mulberry (Morus alba).

Both species of this deciduous plant have roughly oval, toothed, alternate leaves.

Ripe mulberries come in different colours: red, white, pink and black.

These are attributed to the two different species and their hybrids.

Red mulberry

  • Reaches a height of about 20 m.
  • Rough reddish-brown bark.
  • Leaves feel like sandpaper underneath.
  • The fruit is made up of lots of berries stuck together, each with its own seed.
  • The fruit is long-oval in shape, and hangs from a short, slender fruit stalk.

White mulberry

  • Native to northern China.
  • Widely cultivated to feed the silmworms needed for the commercial production of silk.
  • Grows up to 12m tall.
  • Rough, lighter, ochre-gray bark and with spreading branches. The bark has distinctive vertical cracks or furrows with an occasional orange-brown streak between the cracks.
  • Leaves are smooth underneath.
  • The flower is also notable for the rapid release of its pollen, which is launched at over half the speed of sound.
  • Mature white mulberries are soft, moist and sticky. Unripe berries are dry and hard.

Mulberries have been adapted to a very wide variety of local conditions. Japan has about 700 different types. The trees can grow from cool temperate to warm tropical regions, from dry to moist areas, from sea-level to as high as 3,300 metres.

White Mulberry (Morus alba) is the principal food source for the silkworm, Bombyx mori. Mulberries are edible and the bark is used in many types of specialized papers.

Morus australis (Japanese/Korean Mulberry) Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Japanese Mulberry (Morus australis) is distributed over a wide terrain (in limestone areas, forest margins, mountain slopes, fallow land, scrub in valleys) and areas of East Asia including Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Liaoning, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, SE Xizang, Yunnan, Zhejiang, Japan, Korea. Bhutan and India. - Source: The Japanese Mulberry - Morus australis Poir. Moraceae

References:

“Here we go round the mulberry bush” (Straits Times)

The Japanese Mulberry - Morus australis Poir. Moraceae - Mulberry or Fig Family, a.k.a. the Korean Mulberry

The Mulberry Tree & Its Silkworm Connection (by Dr. T. Ombrello – UCC Biology Department)

Mulberry trees on the ancient uses of mulberry and connection with fish farming

Morus alba

File:Sakurajima at Sunset.jpg
Source: Wikipedia photo, 23 Nov 2009 eruption

Kyodo

KAGOSHIMA — Mount Sakurajima, an active volcano in Kagoshima Prefecture, explosively erupted 996 times in 2011, the most since record-keeping began in 1955, the local meteorological observatory said.

At the 800-meter-high Showa crater, which erupted in June 2006 for the first time in 58 years, 994 eruptions were observed last year. Two eruptions were observed at the Minamidake vent, which is at an elevation of about 1,000 meters, the Kagoshima Meteorological Observatory said Sunday.

Mount Sakurajima’s previous record for eruptions was 474 in 1985. But after erupting 548 times in 2009 and 896 times in 2010, its most recent string of eruptions means the record has been broken for three consecutive years.

The Meteorological Agency defines an explosive eruption as one accompanied by an explosive release of gas, ash or rock.

Web-slinging professor seeks spider silk secret (Japan Times, Sunday, Sep. 18, 2011)

By TOMOKO OTAKE

Shigeyoshi Osaki can read the minds of spiders. Or so you would think, if you see the way he handles the eight-legged arthropods.

News photo
Hanging around: Professor Shigeyoshi Osaki demonstrates the strength of spider silk by swinging in a hammock supported by threads he harvested. SHIGEYOSHI OSAKI PHOTO

Osaki, professor at the department of biomacromolecules at Nara Medical University in the city of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, is also one of Japan’s foremost researchers on spiders, especially spider silk.

When The Japan Times recently visited his office, where he keeps hundreds of spiders for research, he achieved the astonishing feat of harvesting silk from a spider with several-centimeter-long legs — right on cue.

First, he brought in a few paper cups, each of which had a spider and a twig inside. He then explained that he has to keep each of these harmless spiders separately because, if they are kept together, they would eat each other.

The two kinds of spider species he keeps are Nephila pilipes, distinguished by long, thin legs and coming from Okinawa, and Argiope amoena, which are caught in Kochi and Wakayama prefectures and bear a black and yellow striped pattern on the abdomen.

As soon as Osaki removed a rubber band holding a plastic net over a paper cup, a big spider crawled out of the cup and moved about across the professor’s body. With great skill and care, Osaki managed to let the leggy creature stay on his right wrist, then nudged it onto a black cloth, using a twig.

And then, with the wizardry of a dolphin trainer or snake charmer, he gently tapped the creature’s rounded belly with the twig several times. “It will come out soon,” he whispered — and whoa! — a fine, silver fiber spun out of the spider’s belly as Osaki pulled the twig away from the cloth, just like the sticky strings you get when you remove chopsticks from a bowl of natto fermented beans.

“The key is to approach them with a mix of tough and gentle,” he said. “If you are too strict, you will upset them and they won’t produce the silk. They can also pretend that they are dead.”

News photo
Silken tones: Professor Shigeyoshi Osaki plays a violin strung with spider-silk strings. TOMOKO OTAKE PHOTO

The author of numerous scientific papers, books and essays on spiders, Osaki says he first got interested in the arachnid while researching the adhesiveness of stickers for a paper manufacturing company some 30 years ago. He found spiders, which spin sticky orb webs to catch prey, much more exciting than stickers, he recalls. But back then, no one had really done in-depth research on spider silk, he said.

“Most researchers were studying spiders from a biological perspective,” he said. “Their biggest motivation was to find a new species, because if they did, the species would be named after them.”

Osaki, on the other hand, became fascinated with the unique characteristics of spider silk. In particular, the so-called drag line, from which spiders dangle, is strong, expandable and not so sticky compared to other silk threads. He says the drag line’s exceptional strength is due to its two-filament structure, noting that it manifests the species’ great survival skills, which are born out of its 400-million-year evolutionary history.

Osaki has honed his spider-silk harvesting skills over the years — through trial and error. He said he once released a bunch of spiders on a big tree in his front yard, only to find that most died because they ate each other or fell prey to birds. Also because spider research was for a long time only a side project — his main specialty being the analysis of bio-polymers such as collagen — Osaki could only find time to go spider-watching on weekends and at night. He would always take his two sons along at night, because, if he had gone alone, he said, he “could have been mistaken for a pervert.”

The native of Hyogo Prefecture has also created and fine-tuned his own silk reeling device. While he declined to reveal how he harvests silk now, saying it’s “top secret,” he conceded that he still does it manually. His earlier versions were made out of manually-bent steel coat-hangers, which were then attached to motorized Chupa Chup toys — designed to spin lolly-pops in one’s mouth — bought at ¥100 shops.

After collecting spider silk through such labor-intensive efforts, he went on to test its strength, by tying the woven silk to a hammock and dangling from it himself. The experiment, boldly carried out on the university campus in 2006, was witnessed by journalists and reported nationwide, along with a photo of the suited, 65-kg Osaki clutching the ropes.

News photo
Two Argiope amoena spiders with their silk. TOMOKO OTAKE PHOTO

Osaki said that several projects have attempted, both in Japan and overseas, to mass-produce genetically engineered spider silk, either by breeding goats that produce spider silk through milk, or by injecting spiders’ DNA into the genomes of silkworms. But for now, these projects are in their research phases, and none of the players involved, who have invested vast amounts of money, have yet to start manufacturing bullet-proof jackets or run-free stockings out of spider silk. Osaki, meanwhile, said he would rather stick to exploring the untapped potential of natural spiders.

Last year, he created violin strings with silk he had harvested, with the conviction that his violin would sound different from others. During the visit, he kindly played the special violin. Unfortunately though, his musical skills were no match to his silk-harvesting expertise, so it was hard to tell whether his slightly off-key rendering of the melancholic Japanese classic song “Kojo no Tsuki” (“The Moon over the Ruined Castle”) proved the violin’s excellence over a conventionally-strung Stradivarius. But Osaki says a spectrum analysis of the spider silk-strung violin has shown it has “milder” sounds than regular violins with synthetic fibers. In fact, a professional violinist in Germany recently contacted him, begging to let her play the special instrument, Osaki says. While he has turned down the offer, saying more research and improvement is necessary, he is certain that this would cast a new light on spider silk.

“The violinist was very eager, saying she wants to come to Japan to sign a contract any minute,” he said. “But I need to refine it to a level at which I can let others play with confidence. So I must keep on playing myself … until I find out how to improve it.”

 May 15, 2011, Japan Times
WILD WATCH

Japan’s mammalian riches

I came across my first bumblebees of the season as they were busily draining the nectar from a broad swath of Blue Corydalis. The delicate flower stems nodding in a light breeze looked delightful in the sunshine, while above them frothy willow catkins were yellow with pollen and here and there birches were presenting hints of fresh green.

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Variety incarnate: The species pictured here hint at the extreme diversity of Japan’s mammal fauna. The Sea Otter (above) is a North Pacific species. The Tanuki is a native of East Asia. ©MARK BRAZIL/IMAGES OF JAPAN
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Then an iridescent Japanese Fiddle Beetle scurried across my path before several Peacock Butterflies and a gorgeous Blue Admiral Butterfly fluttered by, seeming to daub splashes of vibrant color on the leaf-litter wherever they landed.

Next, I spotted an Eastern Crowned Warbler flitting through the birches — a newly arrived migrant from the south that seemed more to squeeze out, rather than sing, its compressed, buzzing spring refrain: “Peetsu peetsu bzee.”

Sunshine and a brief spell of warmth after recent rain and weeks of cold since winter ended had tempted them all forth — and me, too. As I tramped the trails of Nopporo Forest Park in Sapporo seeking new signs of spring, what struck me most were the fresh signs of aliens afoot.

For starters, in the soft muddy sand of a streambed I came across a trail of long-fingered and long-toed prints indicating the recent passage of a Northern Raccoon.

Introduced to Japan during the late 1970s, raccoons have spread, causing havoc both for native environments and agriculture. Along with the likes of the Taiwan Macaque, Pallas’ Squirrel and American Mink, they are one of several relatively recent perturbations in the diversity of Japan’s mammal fauna.

However, diversity in adversity and isolation define both the fauna and flora of Japan. Its geological history, shaped by major subterranean forces as it rides the confluence of four tectonic plates, means that the archipelago has had a very chequered history that has given it an extraordinarily diverse natural history and an impressive suite of mammals — thankfully, most of them not alien.

In fact, more than 130 nonmarine (i.e. terrestrial, arboreal and flying species) and 40-plus marine mammal species are known from Japan, though it’s not thenumbers that are impressive but the different types of such animals that occur here.

Among these 170 or so species, for instance, there are a number of wide-ranging Holarctic species, such as the Red Fox and Brown Bear, in common with both North America and the great span of northern Eurasia. There are Palaearctic species too, such as the Eurasian Red Squirrel and Siberian Flying Squirrel, which range across Eurasia from Scandinavia to Hokkaido. Between them, these two groups lend an air of familiarity to Japan’s mammal fauna for European and American visitors.

Then there are the East Asian species, which are known from Japan and adjacent areas of the Asian continent, such as the Tanuki (Raccoon Dog) and the Sika Deer, which would be equally familiar to residents of northeast China, the Korean Peninsula, or eastern Russia.

But it is in the diversity of its more than 40 endemic species that Japan shows its true colors. These are species known only from Japan and nowhere else. Some range widely throughout several of the main Japanese islands, such as the Japanese Macaque, Japanese Hare and Japanese Giant Flying Squirrel; others occur only in small, isolated localities — and some only on small islands, such as the endemic Amami Black Rabbit.

Offshore, Japanese waters are also rich in marine mammal species. Seals, fur seals, sea lions, sea otters, dugong, dolphins, porpoises and whales range in their preferred habitats from the subtropical waters off the southernmost islands and the warm seas around southern Japan, to the cold current flowing south down the Pacific coast and the frigid waters of the Okhotsk Sea bordering Hokkaido.

Sadly, past human activity has already driven several species from Japan to extinction, including the River Otter and Japanese Wolf. Additionally, the more recent introduction of a number of “alien” species, such as Pallas’ Squirrel and the Northern Raccoon, may well lead eventually to further losses of native or even endemic species.

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The Red Fox is found in the Holarctic ecozone, meaning the habitats found throughout the northern continents of the world as a whole. The Japanese Macaque (below) is endemic to Japan’s three main southern islands and Yakushima.?
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The fauna of an island group is constantly in flux, shifting and changing naturally over immensely long periods of time, whereas human-induced perturbations happen very quickly and cause considerable disruption. How is it, though, that Japan has such a wide range of ingredients in its mammal species “cake”?

At times the Japanese islands have been connected to the Asian continent, with the Sea of Japan a mere inland lagoon, and connections northward via what is now Sakhalin to northeast Asia and southward via what are now the Korean Peninsula and the island of Taiwan.

Through complex processes, involving both tectonic movements and the planet’s pendulum swing between glacial and interglacial periods, at times sea levels have risen and caused the isolation of parts of the archipelago as long ranges of mountains, or even as isolated mountain-top islands (the Nansei Shoto today), where species have evolved in isolation.

At other times, the same processes have caused sea levels to fall, reconnecting long-isolated lands to each other and sometimes to the nearby continent via land bridges across which continental mammals have been able to immigrate and expand their ranges, hence allowing the populations of species in once-isolated areas to meet and mix once more.

From Kyushu to Hokkaido, the Japanese archipelago is dotted with active volcanoes reprocessing the building blocks of the islands, with eruptions occurring on some scale in most years. Visit Kagoshima Bay or Mount Aso in Kyushu, or the Akan National Park of eastern Hokkaido, to view and imagine the island-shaping forces of past megaeruptions. In Japan, temblors are frequent, often on a daily basis, tearing at the bedrock of the islands.

Tsunami occur fairly often, too, perhaps even annually, though their scale varies enormously and very few, perhaps only one in a millennium, reach the towering proportions of that monstrous wave generated on March 11 this year. Added to all that, typhoons batter the islands, particularly in the southern half of the archipelago, many times each year.

Rains dash, winds batter, sun bakes and ice grinds. Under such adversity, and in prolonged isolation off the east of the Asian continent, Japan’s geological and climatological history have combined to shape the land and to produce a tremendous range of habitat types and ecological niches throughout its more than 3,000-km-long archipelago.

Japan spans subarctic regions with sea-ice in winter in the north, and subtropical regions with mangroves and corals in the south. Its altitudinal range is such that it presents multiple climatic zones at the same latitude, meaning that it’s possible to hike from broad-leaved evergreen forest up into the alpine zone in just a few kilometers.

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Homegrown: Unique to Japan, the Japanese Serow is found only on the three main islands south of Hokkaido.

As a result of these combined forces, Japan is home to a surprising array of mammal species — although almost a third of them are rather difficult to observe and identify, being mice, voles, rats, shrews and bats. But it is this considerable diversity, within the relatively small land area of Japan (approximately the same size as Germany, or slightly larger than New Zealand or the British Isles) that makes the mammals of Japan a fascinating pursuit.

Indeed, probe a little deeper and a tremendous regional variation among the country’s mammals emerges. Most of Hokkaido’s, for instance, are widespread species equally likely to be found in northeast Asia, with many not found further south in Japan. In contrast, most of the native mammals of the Nansei Shoto are endemic to those islands, and few species from the Japanese main islands range there.

Also, whereas Hokkaido shares affinities with northeast Asia, Nansei Shoto shares its with Taiwan and continental regions to the south and west. Meanwhile, in the main islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, almost 50 percent of the mammals are endemic.

The unique mammal fauna of Japan faces particular issues in this partly over-crowded nation. Unlike in many other countries, these issues do not really include hunting for sport (it’s an uncommon, limited and declining pastime), nor is there a bushmeat trade driving animal populations down.

Nonetheless, habitat loss is a critical issue. The Japanese lowlands are so intensely developed for agriculture, industry and urbanization that few areas of natural lowland habitat survive — which makes each one precious.

The mountainous areas are less developed or disturbed, providing more plentiful habitat for species able to survive at higher elevations, but even there, habitat loss, or degradation, are issues to consider.

More recently, and compounding the issue of habitat loss, the introduction of alien species is causing difficulties for native species. Alien species, whether introduced deliberately or accidentally, occupy important ecological niches in a previously natural ecosystem; they may become predators of native species (mammals or otherwise), or they may compete with them for valuable resources such as food, cavities, den sites and so on.

Certainly, the introduction of alien species has far-reaching implications for the native mammal fauna, and deserves considerable attention from the conservation community.

Wherever in Japan you call home, there is a suite of local mammals to seek out. Even city parks support their own small and not-so-small mammals. If any reader knows of a regular place to see or watch the Masked Palm Civet (hakubishin), or has any photographs of them, I would be delighted to hear from you.

Mark Brazil is a naturalist and author who organizes and leads wildlife, birding and photographic excursions around Japan. His books “Field Guide to the Birds of East Asia,” “A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Japan” and “The Birds of Japan” are available at good bookstores, or by contacting the author atmarkbrazil@world.email.ne.jp or via wildwatchjapan.com.

Mount Fuji from Mt. Kami in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park (Source: Wikimedia)

Quake activity rises sharply around volcanoes (Asahi, 26 Mar 2011)

Big earthquakes have led to volcanic eruptions in the past, but while seismic activity has picked up at Japanese volcanoes, experts say an eruption is not imminent.

Since the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake, at least 13 active volcanoes have shown increased seismic activity.

Although crustal movements considered a precursor of volcanic eruptions have not been observed, experts said they would keep an eye on the situation.

The surge in seismic activity has been observed in active volcanoes ranging from the Kanto region to Kyushu.

The active volcanoes in the Kanto and Chubu regions with greater seismic activity are Mount Nikko-Shiranesan, Mount Yakedake, Mount Norikuradake, Mount Fuji and Mount Hakoneyama.

The volcanic islands of Izu-Oshima, Niijima and Kozushima in the Izu island chain have also had greater seismic activity.

In Kyushu, Mount Tsurumidake, Mount Garandake, Mount Aso and Mount Kujusan have greater activity as do Nakanoshima and Suwanosejima islands in the Nansei island chain.

According to officials of the Japan Meteorological Agency, while there was an increase in earthquakes in the vicinity of the volcanoes following the magnitude-9.0 earthquake on March 11, the number of quakes has since decreased.

Near Mount Fuji, a magnitude-6.4 earthquake was observed March 15, and aftershocks followed.

Within a radius of 5 kilometers from the peak of Mount Yakedake on the border of Nagano and Gifu prefectures, there is usually only a few quakes a month, but the number increased to more than 350 over the course of a week.

In the vicinity of Mount Hakoneyama, which normally gets about two earthquakes a day, 1,050 were observed in one week.

Volcanic areas showing increased seismic activity

Akio Yoshida, who heads the Hot Springs Research Institute of Kanagawa Prefecture, which observes earthquakes at Hakone, said, “There is no doubt the earthquakes were triggered by the March 11 earthquake.”

There have so far been no observations of crustal movement and volcanic tremors that are the normal precursors to volcanic eruptions.

However, it is not unusual for volcanoes to become more active following a major earthquake.

According to Masato Koyama, a professor of volcanology at Shizuoka University, major earthquakes can shake clumps of underground magma. Earthquakes may increase after pressure on the magma clumps changes due to crustal movement or seismic waves.

In 1707, a magnitude-8.4 series of earthquakes hit the Tokai, Tonankai and Nankai regions. Forty-nine days after the chain of earthquakes, Mount Fuji erupted.

After the 2004 magnitude-9.1 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, earthquakes became more frequent at more than 10 volcanoes in the region over a period of several months. Mount Merapi on Java Island erupted about 16 months after the huge earthquake.

Koyama said, “There will be a need to keep an eye on whether volcanic activity increases over the next month or two.”

Toshitsugu Fujii, chairman of the coordinating committee for prediction of volcanic eruption, said, “While there is no clear cause and effect relationship with the Great East Japan Earthquake, it would not be unusual for a major earthquake to have some kind of effect.”

(This article was written by Chikako Kawahara and Ayako Suzuki.)

Plate Tectonics
Faulty thinking

The myth and reality of the Japanese earthquake

Mar 17th 2011 | LOS ANGELES | The Economist retr. 30 Mar 2011

BACK in January, Japanese seismologists warned that the tectonic plates colliding beneath the Pacific Ocean off the north-east coast of Japan were poised to slip catastrophically. By their reckoning, there was a 99% chance of an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 occurring off the Miyagi coast, and a 90% chance of one off Ibaraki prefecture, within the next 30 years. They were surprised only by the sheer size of the magnitude 9.0 monster that was unleashed when the plates at last let go on March 11th.

It seems that, on occasions, the rupture along this particular type of “reverse fault” (where the upper part of one side of the fault is thrust over the foot of the other) can jump across gaps and other boundaries along the fissure, linking up with other parts of the fault to extend the breach alarmingly. The traditional fault-segmentation model used in seismology does not allow for this. But on that fateful Friday, when the North American plate slid over the Pacific plate along a subduction zone running 130km (80 miles) off the Pacific coast of northern Japan, the shock leapt from the first segment to a second and on to a third, extending the fault zone some 400km and increasing its intensity more than 30-fold. With all the action taking place only 24km down, the seabed was thrust violently upwards, triggering huge waves.

Could such a chain of seismic events happen elsewhere in Japan? Many in Tokyo fear that earthquakes may be creeping closer. The Japanese media have drawn attention to a quake of magnitude 6.6 on the far side of the country, between Nagano and Niigata prefectures, and to a quake of magnitude 6.1 in Shizuoka prefecture, both within days of the main quake. But these fairly common events occurred on entirely different tectonic plates. It is hard to imagine how faults on one continental plate might communicate with those on another that is hundreds of kilometres away.

No doubt Tokyo will be sideswiped one day. The most likely spawning ground for that earthquake will be 100km or more to the south-west, where the Philippine plate dives under the Eurasian plate, creating a continuous sequence of shudders. This could feasibly cause a megaquake of the kind the north-east has just suffered. But the evidence remains largely against it.

Legend of the Guardians:
The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Theatrical release poster

Owls are quite the “in” thing with kids right now … especially after the recent movie showing of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (reviewed here). “The Guardians of Ga’Hoole” fantasy books by Kathryn Lasky (reviewed here) on which the 3D movie was based are also currently selling like hotcakes at the moment. My son is a great fan of these books and is mowing down the pages of the last few books in the 15-book series at the moment.  I haven’t read them but both reviews of the book and movie say they are like a “Lord of the Rings” sort of tale, only in an owl world setting.  In any case, you might like to know, owls have always been popular in Japan — they are to be frequently on sale as “lucky owl” amulets…but the movie has brought the birds back into fashion!

Owl sculptures and amulets at the Ainu Kotan Village, Lake Akan in Hokkaido

 

In our travels around Hokkaido, we had encountered lots of owl carvings and amulets especially at the Ainu Kotan Village at Lake Akan in Hokkaido. We’d also seen lots of owl amulets on the Izu Peninsula, and some homes around my neighborhood have owl pottery figurines on their gate, so my curiosity has been piqued as to what they might symbolize.

Here’s what I’ve found so far:
When we were visiting the Maruyama Zoo in Hokkaido, at the aviary section I saw a plaque that said Japan was the “owl capital of the world” (I haven’t been able to confirm this by a google search but…) and it noted that there were around twelve species of owls indigenous to or that breed mainly in Japan.

Blakiston fish owl (Bubo blakistoni), Kushiro Zoo

Japan seems to shares a Central Asian veneration of owls, as in Japan owl pictures and figurines have been placed in homes to ward off famine or epidemics. In Central Asia feathers of the Northern Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo), particularly from its breast and belly, were valued as precious amulets protecting children and livestock from evil spirits. Talons of the Northern Eagle Owl were said to ward off diseases and cure infertility in women.
Also hinting of the antiquity of these beliefs – are the Ainu’s owl beliefs: the Blakiston’s Fish Owl (Ketupa blakistoni) was called “Kotan Kor Kamuy” (God of the Village) by the Ainu, the native peoples of Hokkaido, Japan. The traditional Ainu people were hunter-gatherers and believed that all animals were divine; most admired were bear and the fish owl. The owls were held in particular esteem and, like the people, were associated with fish (salmonids) and lived in many of the same riverside locations. The Fish Owl Ceremony, which returned the spirit of fish owls to the god’s world, was conducted until the 1930′s.
Bird symbolism in Japan mirrors that of Central Asia and Siberia, since the tumulus age, there has been a persistent image of the bird as a bird of death. There are images of a bird on a prow in ancient etchings, tomb murals and funerary statuary. Although the chicken and flying waterfowl are more common imagery as the bird of death, the owl shares the same symbolic meaning. As in many cultures, owls signal an underworld or serve to represent human spirits after death; in ancient times along with other Siberian cultures, owls represented supportive spirit helpers and allow humans (often shamans) to connect with or utilize their supernatural powers.
It is not surprising that with owls having been very common in the olden days and they are associated with shinto shrine groves, that there are several legends and folktales to do with owls:   - see the Little Horned Owl (an Ainu tale) and “Colored” ; a really famous folktale about how the crow, originally a white bird, became black and “The Owl of the Three Jewels (from the nine gothic “Tales of Moonlight and Rain” by Ueda Akinari).  According to some lore, some owls are seen as divine messengers while others, particularly Barn or Horned owls, are viewed as demons.
*
On a more modern note,  a Japanese Lucky Owl is one of the most popular lucky charms in Japan because ‘owl’ in Japanese is ‘fukurou’ which means ‘no hardship’ or ‘no trouble’.
Gold Mini Owl
By the way…
* フクロウ fukurō is applied to owls without ‘ears’, in particular the Ural Owl.
* ズク zuku and ミミズク mimizuku are somewhat less common terms for owls with ‘ears’, such as various types of Scops owl and the Eagle Owl

***
Further information and readings on owls that are found in Japan:
Miscellaneous information on birds:
Story-lovers.com has a page that lists books about owls

Bird lovers … check out these pages as well!

Kevin Short

NATURE IN SHORT /

Welcome to the world of neighborhood birds

Kevin Short / Daily Yomiuri (Mar. 10, 2011)

At this time of year, the weather can be highly unsettled, with several warm balmy days followed by a return to snow and icy winds. But with the second moon of the year already waxing toward first quarter, and the equinox and cherry blossoms looming on the horizon, it’s safe to assume that full-blown spring is just around the corner.

The upcoming turn of the season can be clearly seen in the behavior of the local birds. The huge winter roosts and communal feeding flocks are breaking up as mating pairs begin to establish their own nests and nesting territories. Little sparrows will fight viciously over desirable nesting sites; and the crows, which seemed like one enormous happy family during the cold months, will zealously chase each other out of their respective areas.

This is a good time to get to know your local neighborhood birds. Serious birdwatching requires substantial effort and a good pair of binoculars, but there are a dozen or so species of bird that are so well-adapted to human environments that they can be identified and observed with the naked eye.

Slighly smaller than jungle crow, with thinner bill and more gently sloping forehead. Less common in urban and residential areas, but often seen in suburbs and countryside.

Short is a naturalist and cultural anthropology professor at Tokyo University of Information Sciences.

(Mar. 10, 2011)

On Friday last week, a lava dome about 50 meters in diameter was confirmed in the Shinmoedake crater. Shinmoedake is one of more than 20 volcanic peaks in the Kirishima mountain range. The magma is viscid, and is likened to the one at Fugendake peak in the Unzen mountain range in Nagasaki Prefecture, whose destructive effect of the pyroclastic eruption has been noted and studied in all textbooks.

Today’s terrestrial TV broadcast mentioned that rocks as large as a car have been spotted being ejected from the crater’s blasts.

Below are a few links to some most spectacular Youtube video footages of the eruptions:

1)  Pyroclastic eruption, cloud, ash and rock missives;  2)  Pyroclastic cloud, electrical lightning-like charges 3)

Following on below is the excerpted Yomiuri Shimbun’s Jan 30, 2011 news article explaining the process of Shinmoedake’s eruption and a report on the nature of the effects of the pyroclastic blasts.

Recent eruptions similar to those 300 yrs ago / Lava dome confirmed; experts warn more violent blasts could be in offing at Shinmoedake peak

Kyoichi Sasazawa and Takashi Ito / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers

How Shinmoedake erupted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Click on photo to see full view]

Volcanic experts have sounded an ominous warning about the recent eruptions on Shinmoedake peak, saying they closely resemble highly destructive blasts that occurred there nearly 300 years ago.

One of more than 20 volcanic peaks in the Kirishima mountain range on the Kagoshima-Miyazaki prefectural border, Shinmoedake is believed to have formed between 7,300 and 25,000 years ago.

Most of the recorded eruptions on the Kirishima range have occurred at Shinmoedake and Ohachi peaks.

Small eruptions caused by phreatic explosions were observed on Shinmoedake from March to May last year. Phreatic explosions occur when the heat of rising magma causes underground water to boil and steam pressure rises.

According to experts, however, the eruptions that have taken place since Wednesday are explosive eruptions characteristic of phreatomagmatic explosions, which are caused when magma and underground water directly interact.

Traces of small pyroclastic flows going down 500 to 600 meters have also been observed on the southwestern side of the volcano.

The magma at Shinmoedake is relatively viscid, according to the experts, as it contains a large amount of silica, a main ingredient of volcanic ash. When the volcano erupts, a great amount of ash is also ejected.

On Friday, a lava dome about 50 meters in diameter was confirmed in the crater of the 1,421-meter peak during observations from the air by the University of Tokyo’s Earthquake Research Institute. The dome formed as magma rose to the crater and stopped there.

“It’s already reached the ‘magma-eruption’ stage, in which magma directly erupts from the volcano,” said Associate Prof. Ryusuke Imura of Kagoshima University, an expert on volcanic topography. He has been conducting on-site research near the volcano.

The magma also is viscid at Fugendake peak in the Unzen mountain range in Nagasaki Prefecture, where large pyroclastic flows were observed 20 years ago. A large lava dome was observed in the crater at that time, and was the source of pyroclastic flows for a long time.

A lava dome sometimes grows larger and larger due to a continuous supply of magma, although there are exceptions. For example, on Mt. Showa Shinzan in Sobetsucho, Hokkaido, lava domes cooled as soon as they formed, raising the height of the peak from 1944 to 1945.

===

Edo period eruptions

Large eruptions took place at Shinmoedake in 1716 and 1717, during the Kyoho era of the Edo period (1603-1867).

Analysis of the volcanic material deposited in the soil by the different eruptions has found that they changed from phreatic to phreatomagmatic explosions and then to magmatic eruptions.

According to Imura, the Edo eruptions were 10 times bigger than the current ones, and also involved pyroclastic and mud flows. Although there was no lava flow, intermittent eruptions continued for about 18 months, resulting in the deaths of six people, Imura said.

Ash from the eruptions traveled as far as Hachijojima island in Tokyo’s Izu Island chain, about 850 kilometers from Shinmoedake.

According to analysis by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology on pumice stones from the eruptions through Thursday, the magma is very similar to that ejected in the 1716-17 eruptions.

“The eruption process is quite similar to the major eruptions of the Kyoho era, so more violent eruptions could take place,” Imura said.

===

‘Mountain swelling’

Meanwhile, the Geospational Information Authority of Japan, which has been observing Shinmoedake’s crustal movement via the Global Positioning System, said the volcano body began swelling, which indicates an accumulation of magma, in December 2009.

During a nine-month period from May 2010, about 6 million cubic meters of magma accumulated in a reservoir about six kilometers underground and about 10 kilometers west-northwest of the Shinmoedake crater. During the same period, about 1 million cubic meters of magma accumulated in a chamber about three kilometers underground just beneath the crater.

Generally, a mountain body swells when magma accumulates underground, causing the distance between observation points to become longer. When magma is released through eruptions, the mountain body will contract and observation points move closer together.

There are exceptions, however. Eruptions have continued to take place on Sakurajima in Kagoshima, for example, but the mountain’s body is swelling because the amount of magma accumulating underground is larger than the volume released through the eruptions.

Although no data is available yet on how much magma was ejected from Shinmoedake, distances between observation points have already changed from expanding to shrinking.

Originally 23 kilometers, the distance between two particular points in the Kirishima mountain system expanded by four centimeters during the approximately one year from December 2009 to just before the eruptions. However, the same distance shrank by one centimeter in three days from Wednesday.

“According to the observation results, we can say the amount of magma has fallen,” said Tetsuro Imakiire, a senior technical official at the Geospational Information Authority of Japan.

(Jan. 30, 2011)

It is traditionally taught in science textbooks that there are no glaciers in Japan, but that evidence of remnants of former glaciers and the earlier glaciation of Japan can be found in the form of existing glacial cirques (Tateyama Kuranosuke cirque, Sensojiki cirque, Maedake, Ainodake and Mt Mibu cirques – note glacial landforms are extensive in the Northern Alps and more limited in the Central and Southern Alps) as well as of moraines. That this position might be dislodged in the near future – is suggested by a recent a news report by Yomiuri Shimbun suggests that a research team believes it has found a glacier 700 meters long, 200 meters wide and 30 meters thick on the east slope of Mt Oyama, the 3,003 meter principal peak of the Tateyama mountain range. The ice mass is said to be moving at a rate of six to 30 centimeters a month.

Team: N. Alps gorge snow may be glacier

Snow in a gorge in the Tateyama mountain range may be covering a glacier (Courtesy of Tateyama Caldera Sabo Museum)

(The Yomiuri Shimbun Dec 4, 2010)
TOYAMA–A snow-coverd slope in a gorge in the Northern Alps’ Tateyama mountain range in Toyama Prefecture is believed to be a glacier, despite the long-held belief that Japan, a country in the temperate zone, has no such ice fields, a local research team has announced.
The team, from the Tateyama Caldera Sabo Museum in Toyama, discovered that ice in the gorge was moving in a similar manner to that of a glacier.
According to the team, the ice is in the Gozenzawa Gorge on the east slope of Mt. Oyama, the 3,003-meter principal peak of the Tateyama range.
What the team believes is a glacier is 700 meters long, up to 200 meters wide and 30 meters thick.
A glacier is defined as a mass of ice that stays frozen year-round and continues moving for long periods while changing shape due to its own weight and sliding over bedrock.
Last year, the team discovered a manhole-shaped deep hole, which is typically observed in glaciers, at the Gozenzawa Gorge. Observing the hole with a global positioning system from August to October this year, the team discovered that ice was moving six to 30 centimeters a month.
(Dec. 4, 2010)

For further information, see the synopsis (below) of paper presented at a meeting of the 2010 Japan Geoscience Union Meeting:

Finding of the largest glacier ice of Japan in the Tateyama Mountains, central Japan (2009)

By Kotaro FUKUI1*, Hajime IIDA11Tateyama Caldera Sabo Museum

The Gozensawa perennial snow patch is one of the largest perennial snow patch in Japan. Thesnow patch is located in the east-facing slope of Mt Oyama (3003m), and its width and length areabout 700 m and 200 m, respectively. We measured two longitudinal and two transverse ice radarprofiles in mid-September 2009. We identified a large ice body (maximum 30 m in thickness) in allice radar profiles. It is possible that the ice body is the largest one in Japan. The longitudinal iceradar profiles identify internal layers that dip up-glacier, similar to the thrust structures in thecompression zone of a valley glacier. This indicates that the origin of the ice body is glacier ice. To identify ice body activities, we install 25 survey points on the snow patch in October 2009. If we identify the flow of the ice body, the ice body could be regarded as glacier.

Other related references and links:

Quaternary Glaciation of the Japan Alps

Evidence of permafrost environment during the Late Glacial in the southern Japanese Alps by Atsushi Ikeda, et al. (Japan Geoscience Union Meeting 2010)

Late Quaternary glaciations in Japan by Takanobu Sawagaki et al. pp. 216-224 Quaternary Glaciations – Extent and Chronology: Part III: South America J. Ehlers,P.L. Gibbard

Embark on a journey to explore the many facets of wildlife and nature in Japan. The Japanese archipelago is rich in wildlife and nature. This website is a gateway to exploring the many facets of NATURE IN JAPAN. Find out about the varied and interesting BIOMES and HABITATS found in Japan. You can also learn about the WILD & WACKY WEATHER of Japan.

In our explorations, we’ll make FOREST FORAYS into the Japanese forest and countryside to examine the native PLANTS OF JAPAN or TREES OF JAPAN, their foliage and fruit and of course, see what’s in bloom in GARDENS around us … all this in the plant paradise that is Japan. BUG BOY will be your guide to the creepy crawlies of Japan and he’ll let you take a peek at what’s in his BUG BOX and you can find out more about animal wildlife in the COOL CRITTERS segment or about beguiling birds in the BIRDING BOX.

If the sea is your kind of thing, you might be more interested in the SECRETS OF SEASHORES & SEALIFE that Japanese coasts will yield up.

Begin your adventure now!

***

We all need the wildness of the non-human planet to restore our spirits, not parks and beaches where the human element is still the central focus and regulation runs rampant. Instead we collect evidence of our domination by mapping it, scheduling it, and controlling it. And all that gives us is a green imitation of city life and square tomatoes.– What Really Matters.

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