The Coconut Crab – Terrestrial hermit crabs of the Ryukyu Islands

Coconut crabs are the largest terrestrial hermit crabs of the Ryukyu Islands. They are scarce on the Island of Okinawa due to over-hunting. They are sold in local fish markets for high prices. The meat of the the coconut crab is sought after and considered a delicacy.  No conservation programs are set in place to protect this native crab. It is currently listed as data deficient on the IUCN list of Threatened species.

  • Scientific name: Birgus latro
  • Common name: Coconut crab, robber crab and palm thief
  • Distribution: Majority of the Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat: Coastal forest
  • Diet: Seeds, fruit and carrion
  • Average size: 20-40 centimeters
  • Color: Purple, blue or orange
Look into my eyes- Robber crab

Look into my eyes –  coconut crab

Terrestrial hermit crabs live in the coastal forest where the treeline and coastline meet. They are the caretakers of the coastal forest. They mainly feed on plants, flowers, fruits and seeds in the treeline. They also help disperse seeds in the forest, specifically the screw pine tree seeds.

The Climber- robber crab

The Climber- Adult coconut crab

Pandanus trees with spiky sword shaped leaves provide a perfect environment for the Coconut crabs to thrive.

Pandus odifer

Pandus odifer – favorite food

Okinawa’s harsh limestone coastline. The female must make the journey over this rough terrain to lay her eggs in the ocean.

Coconut crab - Onna village

Coconut crab – Onna village

Photographed on on a white portable outdoor studio for the Meet Your neighbours project. ( Connecting people worldwide with the wildlife in their community )

Coconut crab- MYN technique

Coconut crab- MYN technique

Meet Crabzilla! – The most aggressive crab I have encountered on Okinawa.   Coconut crabs are fearless and have bone crushing power. You do not want to get caught by the claw, You play you will Pay!!

Crabzilla -Okinawa

Crabzilla -Okinawa

Coconut crabs spend their day hiding in burrows.  They venture out searching for food late at night.  This juvenile was found crossing the road.

Let's dance- Coconut crab

Let’s dance- Coconut crab

Have a great day!

 

 

Seashells of Okinawa

The beautiful seashells of the Ryukyu Islands.

It all started in 1989,  I went to a friend’s house and saw some beautiful seashells displayed on a counter-top.  My first thought was that they were fake or man-made. The intricate design of the Venus comb Murex shell caught my eye.  I was fascinated by the design and wanted to learn more about the animal that produced this beautiful shell.

Murex spicatus -Venus comb murex

Murex spicatus -Venus comb murex

I continued to collect,  photograph and read more about marine mollusks from the Ryukyu Islands. I eventually started contributing my collection samples to worldwide museums, scientists, specialists and images for various scientific publications. I currently do not collect shells anymore but enjoy photographing the marine snails in their natural habitat.

General rules to shell collecting

  • Be respectful to the environment.
  • Only collect dead specimens
  • Avoid over collecting sea-shells
  • If you turn over rocks, place them back in the original position

Below are some of my favorite shells found on Okinawa.

Semipallium dianae - scallop

Semipallium dianae – scallop

Neocancilla takiisaoi

Neocancilla takiisaoi

Cardium victor - Heart shell

Cardium victor – Heart shell

Lambis scorpius - scorpion conch

Lambis scorpius – scorpion conch

Morum ponderosum

Morum ponderosum

Annachlamys reevei

Annachlamys reevei – MYN technique

Chicoreus ryukyuensis

Chicoreus ryukyuensis -Okinawa, Japan

Cypraea (Blasicrura) luchuana (Kuroda,1960) Okinawa

Cypraea (Blasicrura) luchuana  -  Okinawa, Japan

Gloripallium speciosum

Gloripallium speciosum – sunray scallop

Avoid handling the venomous cone shells.  They are often found reef walking during low tide.

Venomous cones shells of Okinawa

Venomous cones shells of Okinawa

Sinezona milleri (Geiger & Sasaki , 2009) – Named for the collector of the type specimens, Shawn Miller of Nagahama, Okinawa, for his continued support in malacological research by providing marine sediment samples of Okinawa.

Sinezona milleri (Geiger & Sasaki , 2009)

Sinezona milleri (Geiger & Sasaki , 2009)

Hemilienardia shawnmilleri.  A new species named after naturalist and underwater photographer Shawn Miller. Described by Shawn Wiedrick.

Hemilienardia shawnmilleri

Hemilienardia shawnmilleri

Have a great day!

Thousands of Blue button jellyfish washed ashore Okinawa

Thousands of Blue button jellyfish ( Porpita porpita ) washed ashore on a local beach today.  These beautiful animals have stinging cells called nematocysts.  They can cause skin irritation but generally are not a threat.

Blue button  jellyfish

Blue button jellyfish

Blue button  jellyfish

Blue button jellyfish 

Washed ashore

Washed ashore

Button Jellyfish

Button Jellyfish -Gobe 700

Button Jellyfish

Button Jellyfish – Gobe 700

I collected a few specimens to photograph in the studio. I was curious to see if this animal would fluoresce under blue light. I used my underwater setup as my lighting studio.  I took a few photos using the Light & Motion Nightsea Blue light.

Studio setup

DTM -Studio setup

The round disc fluoresced bright orange under blue light.

fluorescence

fluorescence

Have a great day!

 

 

Meet Your Neighbours project – Okinawa, Japan

Founded in 2009, Meet Your Neighbours is a worldwide photographic initiative created by Niall Benvie and Clay Bolt. The project is dedicated to reconnecting people with the wildlife on their own doorsteps and enriching their lives in the process. These creatures and plants are vital to people: they represent the first, and for some, the only contact with wild nature we have. Yet too often they are overlooked, undervalued.

There are seventy-five worldwide contributors to this powerful project. I am currently  the Japan contributor to this project. All images are used for conservation awareness and educational purposes.  Below are some of my favorite images.

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Okinawan green tree frog

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Percnon planissimum – crab

Cherry blossom  -Mt Yaedake

Cherry blossom -Mt Yaedake

Crabs with beach trash homes

Crabs with beach trash homes

Kuroiwa's Ground Gecko -MYN

Kuroiwa’s Ground Gecko -MYN

Porcelain crab ( Petrolisthes hastatus ) -Okinawa

Porcelain crab ( Petrolisthes hastatus ) -Okinawa

Ryukyu odd-tooth snake ( Dinodon semicarinatum )

Ryukyu odd-tooth snake ( Dinodon semicarinatum )

Scopimera ryukyuensis - Ryukyu Islands

Scopimera ryukyuensis – Ryukyu Islands

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Fern – Ryukyu Islands

 

Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Gray faced buzzard eagle

Gray faced buzzard eagle

Princess habu -MYN technique

Princess habu -MYN technique

Charybdis japonica -Yagaji Island

Charybdis japonica -Yagaji Island

American bullfrog - Izena Island

American bullfrog – Izena Island

Chinese cowrie

Chinese cowrie

Okinawan Habu- MYN field studio technique

Okinawan Habu- MYN field studio technique

Okinawan mud lobster

Okinawan mud lobster

Sesarmops intermedius

Sesarmops intermedius

Air breathing marine slug

Air breathing marine slug

Unidentified earthworm -  MYN and under Blue light Kume Island

Unidentified earthworm – MYN and under Blue light Kume Island

Geograpsus grayi

Geograpsus grayi

Anderson's crocodile newt

Anderson’s crocodile newt

Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Blueberry hermit crabs (Coenobita purpureus)

Have a great day !

Fluoro fingerprinting by Shawn Miller

On February 16th 2015, I went out reef walking at night during low tide. I brought my Light and Motion Nightsea blue light in search of marine life fluorescence. I stumbled upon an interesting find in the world of science. I call it Fluoro fingerprinting.

I flipped over a rock, a small sea cucumber fell off and began to fluoresce under blue light. I found another sea cucumber and photographed it using the blue light and yellow excitation filter but it did not fluoresce.

Holothuria (Platyperona) difficilis under blue light

Holothuria (Platyperona) difficilis under blue light

I gently touched it with my finger and it fluoresced bright green, leaving the print of my finger on the surface of the sea cucumber.

Fluoro fingerprinting. Okinawa-Japan

Fluoro fingerprinting. Okinawa-Japan

I checked my finger and noticed it fluoresced light green under blue light.

fluoro fingerprinting

Fluoro fingerprinting

I was excited about this find and posted it Flickr for some Identification help and explanation. Curt Fieldler emailed the photograph to Dr Alexander Kerr from the University Of Guam Marine lab and he was kind enough to assist.

 Dr Kerr stated that the species is known to have green pigment that I have seen in other Sea cucumbers. As far as the fingerprint, It seems to indicate that touching the surface of the Sea cucumber exposes the underlying carotenoid, perhaps by mobilizing the the melanin pigments. So I think you have made an interesting find. 

The next step was to photograph Holothuria (Platyperona) difficilis in a studio aquarium using the Meet your neighbours isolation technique.  I wanted to show the animal stretched out displaying  the tube feet and feathery feeding tentacles.  

Holothuria (Platyperona) difficilis  -MYN

Holothuria (Platyperona) difficilis -MYN

The last step was to photograph Holothuria (Platyperona) difficilis in its natural environment during the daytime.

Holothuria (Platyperona) difficilis

Holothuria (Platyperona) difficilis in natural environment

Learn more about capturing fluorescence http://www.nightsea.com/

Learn more about the lights used http://www.lightandmotion.com/

Learn more about Meet your Neighbours Project http://meetyourneighbours.net/

Have a great day!