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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.

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

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.