Okinawa, Japan
Okinawa, Japan
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News Article | January 10, 2016

After three days of floating around listlessly and ramming its head into the walls of its tank, a great white shark died last week at an aquarium in Japan. But the story is only the most recent episode in the saga of the animal that zoos haven’t been able to conquer. The shark, an 11.5-foot male, was caught off the coast of Japan, and for a few days was the only great white in captivity in the world. After it arrived at Japan’s Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium last week, it refused food and according to a statement, “took a sudden turn [for the] worse.” The shark died on Friday. The great white shark, perhaps the most feared predator in the ocean and certainly one of its most important, is notorious for faring poorly in captivity. The first great white shark to be held in captivity was at Marineland of the Pacific in 1955, for less than a day. The first great white to be held for a significant amount of time (16 days) was at SeaWorld in 1981. In 2004, the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California exhibited a female great white for just 198 days, getting her to feed in captivity for the first time. She eventually attacked two other sharks that were held in the tank with her, and was released back into the wild shortly after. Others have been held in tanks, but most are released or have died in captivity. There are several factors that make great whites terrible candidates for captivity, chief among them being the migratory species’ propensity to travel great distances. Scientists have found that tagged sharks sometimes end up on the other side of the world—in 2014, one even swam clear across the Atlantic Ocean. They also need a large volume of water and must keep moving in order to keep water flowing over their gills so they can breathe, qualities that amount to a logistical nightmare for aquariums. In many instances, including the most recent one in Japan, great white sharks that were briefly held in captivity have hit their noses on the glass walls. The one held in Monterey Bay even developed an injury from continually smashing into the glass. This problem may be worsened by the species’ sense of electroreception, a skill that allows them to sense electrical charges in the water around them. Scientists have theorized that this may interfere with their ability to sense the glass walls, because of the very small electric charge they give off. Great white sharks are also more aggressive than, say, an aquarium favorite like a manta ray or a sea turtle. Controlling an animal like this in your facility is no easy task: Feeding a great white can also become a problem. The apex predators generally eat live prey, unless food is scarce. Aquarium staff would likely have to provide live animals for the shark to eat—a task that is both difficult logistically and not exactly audience-friendly. It’s hard to imagine that, after such a terrible track record, another aquarium would still want to keep a great white shark in a tank—though given last week’s events, it hasn’t stopped us from trying. Correction: This article initially stated that the first great white shark to be held in captivity was at SeaWorld in 1981, but it was only the first great white to be held in captivity for a significant amount of time (16 days). The first great white shark to be held in captivity was in Marineland of the Pacific in 1955, for less than a day.

Two species of the squat lobster genus Munida Leach, 1820, M. pollioculus n. sp. and M. zebra Macpherson, 1994, are recorded from deep-waters off Okinawa Islands, the Ryukyu Islands, at depths of 1000 m and 495 m, respectively. The new species closely resembles M. clevai Macpherson, 1999 and M. microps Alcock, 1894, but it differs from the latter two in the absence of a proximal spine on the mesial margin of the cheliped dactylus and the more stout dactylus of the second pereopod. Munida zebra is first recorded from the Northwest Pacific, as well as Japanese waters, with its geographical range extended to the north from the previously known southwestern Pacific localities. © 2016 Magnolia Press.

Aguilar-Hurtado C.,University of Ryukyus | Nonaka M.,Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium | Reimer J.D.,University of Ryukyus | Reimer J.D.,Japan Agency for Marine - Earth Science and Technology
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution | Year: 2012

The family Melithaeidae (Octocorallia: Alcyonacea) is distributed in the West Pacific, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. They are most abundant in warmer waters but can also be found in temperate waters. At present six genera are assigned to this family (Melithaea, Mopsella, Clathraria, Acabaria, Wrightella and Asperaxis), however overlapping characteristics make this group's taxonomic identification difficult and their relationships unclear. There are only a few reports from the Ryukyu Archipelago in southern Japan of melithaeids and most other octocorals, despite the islands being an area of high octocoral diversity. To help resolve the taxonomic confusion in this family, samples from various Ryukyu Archipelago locations were collected and DNA sequences of nuclear 28S ribosomal DNA and mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI) were obtained. Additionally, SEM micrographs of the sclerites of specimens were taken to further confirm the molecular results. Three strongly supported clades were recovered from the COI and 28S rDNA analyses, corresponding to Melithaea, Acabaria, and Mopsella, and in most cases clades were clearly related with the sclerite shape reported for each genus. These results show clearly that molecular differences are present between the three genera, and also demonstrates the strong need of other molecular markers for resolving intra-generic phylogenies. Our results provide baseline data for future studies of this octocoral family, not only on taxonomy, but also with regards to their distribution in the Ryukyu Islands. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.

Here we describe eight specimens of Japanese precious coral (Octocorallia: Coralliidae) collected and identified by Kishinouye over one hundred years ago, and recently rediscovered in the collections at the USNM, Smithsonian Institution. Although Kishinouye identified four of the specimens he sent to the Smithsonian as Corallium elatius (Ridley, 1882), two of them represent two new species which we describe: Corallium uchidai sp. nov. and C. gotoense, sp. nov. Kishinouye did not designate any type material for the species he described in his publications nor did he ever mention sending any specimens to the Smithsonian Institution. Because his original material remains missing, we here select neotypes from the Smithsonian material for three of his species: Corallium konojoi Kishinouye, 1903; Pleurocorallium inutile Kishinouye, 1902 and C. japonicum Kishinouye, 1903. In this study, thanks to advances in computer technology and software, we have been able to quantify and thus improve the vague descriptions of sclerite numbers found in past literature such as "few" or "many". Our goal in reporting percent composition data for each kind of sclerite is to help to make species identifications easier for non-specialists. Copyright © 2012 · Magnolia Press.

Okubo N.,Japan Society for the Promotion of Science | Yamamoto H.H.,Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium | Nakaya F.,Ochanomizu University | Okaji K.,CoralQuest Inc.
Biological Bulletin | Year: 2010

In the late 1990s, the once prolific populations of the coral Acropora intermedia surrounding Okinawa, Japan, dramatically declined because of thermal stress, bleaching caused by heat stress, and consequent mortality. Before the bleaching event, 72 fragments (about 15 cm in length) were collected and transferred to the Okinawa Churami Aquarium. Through growth and repeated fragmentation, these original fragments developed into about 100 colonies that spawned from 1999 to 2009. In this study, we compared gametogenesis, fertilization, survival, and O2 consumption in cultured and wild colonies of A. intermedia and their offspring. Cultured A. intermedia had larger oocytes and higher fertilization and survival rates than samples from wild colonies. O2 consumption of cultured embryos was similar to that of wild embryos. These results suggest that cultured A. intermedia and their offspring are as viable as wild colonies. Aquaria can play a role in the conservation of endangered corals, and their cultured colonies could be used to re-establish devastated species on the Okinawa reefs.

Osawa M.,The University of Shimane | Higashiji T.,Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Zootaxa | Year: 2012

A new species of squat lobster, Galathea chura sp. nov., is described from deep-waters off Okinawa Island in the Ryukyus, southern Japan, on the basis of a single specimen found on a colony of unidentified octocoral of the genus Parisis Verrill, 1864. The new species resembles G. magnifica Haswell, 1882, G. spinosorostris Dana, 1852, and G. tanegashimae Baba, 1969, in having scale-like or interrupted arcuate ridges on the gastric region of the carapace and epipods on the first or first and second pereopods only, but it is readily distinguished by the absence of epigastric spines. Copyright © 2012 - Magnolia Press.

Sato K.,Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium | Stewart A.L.,Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongerewa | Nakaya K.,Hokkaido University
Marine Biology Research | Year: 2013

A new deep-water catshark, Apristurus garricki sp. nov., is described from northern New Zealand waters. This species is a member of the longicephalus-group and has a conspicuously elongated prenarial snout and short duodenum and is morphologically similar to A. herklotsi from the western North Pacific and A. australis from Australian waters. A. garricki sp. nov. differs from A. australis and A. herklotsi by possessing large dermal denticles on the dorsal side of the body, and higher counts of monospondylous vertebrae and spiral valves. In addition, this species can be distinguished from A. herklotsi by its larger size at maturation, a higher count of monospondylous vertebrae and spiral valves, and distinct longitudinal striations on the surface of egg cases. It differs from A. australis by having fewer tooth rows on both jaws and the posterior position of the first dorsal-fin insertion being distinctly behind pelvic insertions. This species is currently only known from northern New Zealand waters, and is thought to be endemic to this region. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

Claes J.M.,Catholic University of Louvain | Sato K.,Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium | Mallefet J.,Catholic University of Louvain
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology | Year: 2011

The shark genus Etmopterus encompasses numerous deep-sea species that are widely distributed throughout the world's oceans and share the capability to emit light thanks to numerous tiny epidermal photogenic organs called photophores. Despite the potential wide ecological interest of this light emission, it is still a poorly studied aspect of shark biology, mostly due to the challenges inherent to the study of uncommon deep-sea animals. During a collection trip in waters around Okinawa Island, we had the opportunity to collect, maintain and study specimens of Etmopterus splendidus, a small pelagic lantern shark that was not previously known from this area. Analyses show that (i) the photophore density of this species varies according to the different parts of the body, which led to a heterogeneous photogenic pattern; (ii) photophore harbour the classical structure found in other etmopterid sharks, i.e. a cluster of photocytes enclosed in a pigmented sheath and surmounted by pigmented and lens cells; (iii) the physiological control of these photophores appears similar to what was found in the distantly related Etmopterus spinax, i.e. including hormonal and neural inputs as well as the action of pigmented cells overlying the photocytes. These results indicate that E. splendidus luminescence is probably used for more than one purpose, and support the idea that the physiological control of lantern shark photophores was selected early in the evolution of these sharks. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

Tomita T.,Hokkaido University | Yokoyama K.,Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Paleontological Research | Year: 2015

The megamouth shark (Lamniformes, Megachasmidae) is one of four extant planktivorous elasmobranch lineages, but its fossil record is quite limited. In the present study, we report a new discovery of a rare megachasmid shark fossil from the late Miocene-early Pleistocene interval of Okinawa Island, Japan. To date, this specimen represents the only reliable record of a megachasmid fossil from Asia. © by the Palaeontological Society of Japan 2015.

News Article | January 9, 2016

The great white shark of about 3.5 metres was captured and exhibited in one of the world's rare cases at a Japanese aquarium but died just after three days on January 8, 2016 A great white shark which was captured and exhibited in a Japanese aquarium, one of only a few such sharks to ever be displayed in this way, has died just after three days, the facility said Saturday. The shark, about 3.5 metres (11'5'') in length, was trapped in a fisherman's net and taken to an aquarium on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa on Tuesday. It was exhibited in the Sea of Dangerous Sharks section at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, but died on Friday, according to the facility. The aquarium, popular for its giant tanks where it exhibits whale sharks, said it is investigating what caused the death of the fish—of the same species as that featured in Hollywood buster "Jaws". "It is very difficult to keep great white sharks," said Keiichi Sato, an expert in cartilage fish, of the Okinawa Churashima Foundation. Two aquariums in the United States, including Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, have had the species in captive for short periods in the past, he said. "It is rare that the kind of shark is spotted in the coastal waters of Okinawa in the first place, and even if they get caught in a fisherman's net they usually die immediately because they must keep moving at high speed," Sato told AFP. "We have almost no knowledge about (the great white's) nature, so although it died we would like to share what we learnt from this experience with researchers of the world," he added. Explore further: New whale shark study used metabolomics to help understand shark and ray health

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