| Nov 12, 2008

Thread-sail filefish

* Japanese name: Kawahagi * Scientific name: Stephanolepis cirrhifer * Description: From the side, filefish appear almost circular, with a large eye located high on the head, pouting lips and an elongated tail. From the front, however, they almost disappear, so thin is the ...

| Nov 12, 2008

Science's own alternative history

I’m a sucker for stories that imagine alternate histories. Philip K. Dick wrote a classic, 1962′s “The Man in the High Castle,” that supposed Japan and Germany won World War II, and annexed the United States between them. Another came to mind last week; ...

Golden apple snail

| Oct 22, 2008

Golden apple snail

Japanese name: Sukumiringogai Scientific name: Pomacea canaliculata Description: A fairly large snail with a shell 40 to 60 mm wide and 45 to 75 mm high, and coloration varying from yellow and green to dark brown; some have spiral bands. The tentacle-like antennae are ...

Tuna's just too cheap

| Oct 8, 2008

Tuna's just too cheap

A prime slice of fatty, creamy otoro — belly-meat of Bluefin tuna — isn’t cheap. These days in Tokyo, you can expect to pay at least ¥10,000 ($100) for a goodly portion of the stuff. As supplies dwindle, prices of tuna have been going ...

Falling-letter weevil

| Oct 8, 2008

Falling-letter weevil

Japanese name: Otoshibumi Scientific name: Apoderus jekeli Description: These are odd-looking, but I think quite charismatic little beetles, with elongated heads and powerful limbs, especially the forelimbs. They have straight antennae, which place them among the primitive weevils; they grow to about 6 mm ...

Miyako toad

| Sep 24, 2008

Miyako toad

Japanese name:Miyako hikigaeru Scientific name: Bufo gargarizans miyakonis Description: A real “witch’s toad,” this is a large (up to 18-cm long) warty amphibian, with bulging black eyes and powerful limbs. The skin is yellow-beige. Where to find them: As the name suggests, these toads ...

Coin turtle

| Sep 10, 2008

Coin turtle

Japanese name: Kusagame Scientific name: Chinemys reevesii Description: Also known as Reeve’s turtle, this is a small reptile, growing to about 20-25 cm long (though larger individuals have been reported in Japan), whose shape is more rectangular than oval. It has three ridges (keels) ...

Dolphin 'crimes' exposed

| Sep 10, 2008

Dolphin 'crimes' exposed

I love it when animals do things that we don’t expect, especially when they do things we might have species- centeredly thought were unique to humans, or when they do something that appears to be “out of character.” So that’s warning enough right away ...

Japanese Minnow

| Aug 27, 2008

Japanese Minnow

Japanese name: Mugitsuku Scientific name: Pungtungia herzi Description: Also known as the “striped shiner,” this is a small, sparkling fish, growing up to 55mm long. There is a broad black stripe running down the length of the body, and a brown stripe on the ...