Do not eat with soy sauce and wasabi. Photo: Courtesy of Aquamarine Fukushima
A sea creature that looks like a piece of sushi captivated visitors to a Japanese aquarium, turning a humble inch-long crustacean into an unlikely star.
With its orange and white striped markings and white abdomen, the deep-sea crustacean is eerily similar to the popular salmon sushi. The only way to distinguish the animal from the truffle is its black, protruding eyes and its thin translucent legs.
Since its display at Aquamarine Fukushima in late July, the crustacean has drawn crowds of visitors eager to see its famous resemblance to a piece of sushi. But the star was quickly suffocated as record-breaking cases of COVID-19 forced the aquarium to shut down indefinitely. Fans and staff were concerned the animal, whose lifespan is unknown, would die before people could see it again.
Fortunately, the crustacean survived the dreary period of isolation. It welcomed visitors again on Friday, when the aquarium first opened in two months.
Mai Hibino, a caretaker at the facility, said she felt “grateful for the animal”.
“We didn’t know how long we would be able to expose the animal, or even if it would live. But it held, it stayed alive for us, ”Hibino told VICE World News.
The sushi-shaped creature, which belongs to the genus Rocinela, is an animal without a backbone, more commonly known as isopods. It belongs to the crustacean family and therefore is related to the crabs, shrimps, lobsters or real seafood that you see in sushi restaurants. Although less is known about these isopods than about their more common crustacean relatives, Hibino said there are more than 40 species of this genus.
With over 10,000 species, isopods feed in a variety of ways. Some eat dead or decaying animals, while others are parasitic and inhabit the internal organs of other creatures. According to the aquarium, the sushi-esque salmon isopod belongs to the latter and measures only three centimeters, or about an inch in length.
As one of the most diverse groups of crustaceans, isopods inhabit a range of habitats, from mountains to oceans. This specimen was found off the coastal town of Rausu, on Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, at a depth of 800 to 1,200 meters. Hibino said the creature, unlike its usually brown counterparts, could have acquired its vivid color from a fish.
“Because they are parasitic, we believe the color of the fish it was feeding on may have been transferred,” she said.
Fishermen caught it in a gillnet and so don’t know what animal the isopod was feeding on, but Hibino said its protruding belly likely meant the creature didn’t have to feed, at least for a while. time.
“His belly is still swollen, which means he’s probably full since he was still a parasite and was feeding on another animal. When his stomach gets flatter, it means he’s hungry, ”she said.
In addition to crustaceans, Aquamarine Fukushima features a range of animals from sea otters and tree frogs to rays and sea anemones.
After posting photos of the sushi-shaped creature on social media, Hibino said more visitors have come to experience the crustacean for themselves. “We had a lot more visitors coming in and saying ‘Wow! It really looks like sushi! ‘ She said.
The Publish featuring the crustacean received nearly 29,000 likes, compared to an average of 500 for its mammal and marine neighbors, perhaps the only time a parasite has stolen the limelight.
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