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
Coconut crab- Okinawa

Coconut crab- Okinawa

How to tell the difference between a coconut crab and a hermit crab. They look very similar to the blueberry hermit crab at first, but the coconut crab has protective spines near its eyes. Hermit crabs do not have these spines since they have adapted to retreat into a shell to protect their eyes. The coconut crab does not depend on a seashell as it gets larger. I still have yet to find a juvenile coconut crab adapting with a seashell.

spines that protect the eyes

spines that protect the eyes

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

A juvenile climbing on Pandanus tree

Juvenile coconut crab - Okinawa

Juvenile coconut crab – Okinawa

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!

 

 

Akamata – Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

The Ryukyu odd-tooth snake (Dinodon semicarinatum) is a non-venomous snake found throughout the Ryukyu Islands. They are fairly common here on Okinawa and are usually found at night. The Akamata is a natural enemy of the venomous Habu snake. They are one of the few snakes capable of feeding on venomous pit vipers.  More effort should be focused on conserving this native snake for this specific reason. This beautiful snake has been overlooked and needs to be protected. Sadly I see more dead on the road than alive.

  • Scientific name:  Dinodon semicarinatum
  • Local name:  Akamata – Ryukyu odd-tooth snake
  • Distribution:  Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat:  Forests, drainage ditches and housing areas
  • Diet:  Snakes, lizards, frogs, snakes, birds, baby sea turtles and rodents.
  • Average size:  100cm -180cm
  • Color:  Black, orange with a yellow belly.

They are often found crossing the road at night.

Akamata - Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

Akamata – Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

Ready to strike! An example of what the Akamata looks like when it is threatened.

Akamata - Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

Akamata – Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

Photographed on a white for the Meet Your Neighbours Project. (Connecting People Worldwide with the Wildlife in their Community)

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Ryukyu odd-tooth snake -MYN

Slow and low perspective -

Crossing the road - Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

Crossing the road – Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

A juvenile Akamata feeding on a common gecko tail first.

Akamata feeding on a gecko - tail first

Akamata feeding on a gecko – tail first

A large Akamata feeding on a Okinawa tree frog.  Kume Island.

Ryukyu odd-tooth snake feeding

Ryukyu odd-tooth snake feeding

A juvenile Akamata feeding on an Okinawa tree lizard.

Ryukyu odd-tooth feeding

Ryukyu odd-tooth feeding

The Akamata is one of the few snakes that feed on sea turtle hatchlings in northern Okinawa.

Akamata - feeding on sea turtles

Akamata – feeding on sea turtles

This My first time seeing a juvenile Akamata pull back and puff out its head to resemble the diamond shape of a venomous pit viper. Is the Coincidence or mimicry. I know this is a common occurrence with other non-venomous snakes around the world. I believe this juvenile snake saw me as a threat.

Ryukyu odd-tooth snake puffing its head

Ryukyu odd-tooth snake puffing its head

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!

Nature therapy- Chasing waterfalls on Iriomote Island

This was my fist time exploring Iriomote Island and I have to say it was an outstanding experience.  We were fortunate to have great weather with sunny days. The waterfalls were flowing with clear pristine water.  The twelve hour hike with an experienced guide and four good friends (Pete Leong, Mark Thorpe, Vish Lazcano and Nayuta Hirana) paid off.

The mission was to get some nature therapy and photograph three Impressive waterfalls. I spent most of my time just enjoying the moment and taking documentation photographs with my GoPro Hero 4 Silver.

This was our first view of Maryudo falls in the distance.

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Mariyudo falls, Iriomote

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Mariyudo falls, Iriomote Island

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Mariyudo no-taki, Iriomote Island

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Shooting Mariyudo falls, Iriomote Island

Mariyudo falls is a popular swimming area.  Watch out for leeches!

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Shooting Mariyudo falls, Iriomote Island

On to the next waterfall, Kanpire waterfall is only a ten minute walk from Mariyudo.

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Kanpire waterfall -Iriomote

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Kanpire waterfall -Iriomote

The two hour hike begins! time to find the most amazing waterfall known as Mayagusuku falls.

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Freshwater pools -Iriomote

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River trekking – Iriomote Island

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River trekking – almost there!

We finally made it to Mayagusuku falls! It was worth the hike!

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Mayagusuku falls -Iriomote Island

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Mayagusuku falls -Iriomote Island

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Mayagusuku falls -Iriomote Island

The climb to the top was the most impressive part of my trip ! The falls reminded me of a scene cut from Jurassic park.

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Mayagusuku falls -Iriomote Island

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Mayagusuku falls -Iriomote Island

I really didn’t want to leave this waterfall but we had get back before nightfall.

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The beauty of Iriomote Island

Twelve hours later…  we made it back safe!

Hummingbirds on Okinawa

I’m sorry to disappoint you but we do not have any hummingbirds on Okinawa.  We do have hawk moths that resemble hummingbirds. The hawk moths are also called hummingbird moths. They are extremely fast and challenging to photograph.

I used a slow shutter speed to convey motion in the wings of the Hummingbird hawk moth (Macroglossum corythus)

Hummingbird hawk-moth

Hummingbird hawk-moth

I often find the insects feeding early morning and or late in the evening. They feed using a long proboscis to drink the nectar.

Hummingbird hawk-moth

Hummingbird hawk-moth

They are hard to see since they are small (35 -45mm) and move extremely fast. They can be heard creating a humming sound as they fly by. They hover for a short period of time collecting the nectar and move on to the next flower.

Hummingbird hawk-moth

Hummingbird hawk-moth

Hummingbird hawk-moth

Hummingbird hawk-moth

The Convolvulus hawk moth ( Agrius convolvuli ) is the largest hawk moth I have seen on Okinawa.

 Convolvulus hawk moth

Convolvulus hawk moth

The Impatiens Hawk moth feeds in the evening. I found this moth resting on a plant.

Impatiens Hawk Moth (Theretra oldenlandiae)

Impatiens Hawk Moth (Theretra oldenlandiae)

Impatiens Hawk Moth (Theretra oldenlandiae) larvae photographed on white using the MYN studio technique.

Impatiens Hawk Moth (Theretra oldenlandiae) larvae

Impatiens Hawk Moth (Theretra oldenlandiae) larvae

Green Pergesa Hawk moth larvae ( Pergesa acteaus)

Green Pergesa Hawk moth larvae ( Pergesa acteaus)

Have a great day !

 

 

The Hallowell’s tree frog – Okinawa

The Hallowell’s tree frog ( Hyla hallowellii ) is found on Okinawa, Amami and Tokunoshima Island.

  • Scientific name: Hyla hallowellii
  • Common name: Hallowell’s tree frog
  • Distribution: Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat: Forests, grassy areas and farm fields near water.
  • Diet: Insects
  • Average size: 30mm-40mm
  • Color: Bright green with a white belly

The Hallowell’s tree frog is fairly common but not often seen.  The beautiful frog lives high above the ground in trees making it difficult to find and photograph.

The Hallowell's tree frog

The Hallowell’s tree frog

They are easy to locate during mating season. The male produces a fairly high pitch squeak sound over and over.

The Hallowell's tree frog

The Hallowell’s tree frog -vocal sac

The Hallowell's tree frog

The Hallowell’s tree frog -mating call

The Hallowell's tree frog

The Hallowell’s tree frog

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Let’s protect the wildlife of the Ryukyu Islands.

Ryukyu Kajika frog – Amphibians of the Ryukyu Islands

The Ryukyu Kajika frog (  Buergeria japonica ) is found throughout the Ryukyu Islands. It is the most common frog found on Okinawa.

  • Scientific name: Buergeria japonica
  • Common name: Ryukyu Kajika frog
  • Distribution: Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat: Forests, mountain slopes, drainage ditches and farm fields.
  • Diet: Small Insects
  • Average size: 25mm-40mm
  • Color: Olive green, brown and golden yellow

This small frog is a master of camouflage. I often find it on rocks, plants, trees, drainage ditches and even our trash.

Ryukyu Kajika frog on tatami mat

Ryukyu Kajika frog on tatami mat

Ryukyu Kajika frog

Ryukyu Kajika frog -macro

Ryukyu Kajika frog

Ryukyu Kajika frog – blending in

Ryukyu Kajika frog

Ryukyu Kajika frog

Ryukyu Kajika frog

Ryukyu Kajika frog- man hole cover

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Ryukyu Kajika frog- skin discoloration

Kajika frog -Iriomote Island

Kajika frog -Iriomote Island

Photographed on white for the Meet Your Neighbours Project

Ryukyu Kajika frog - MYN

Ryukyu Kajika frog – MYN

The males turn a golden yellow during mating season. The season stretches from April to September on Okinawa.

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Ryukyu Kajika frog – mating

Ryukyu Kajika frog

Ryukyu Kajika frog – drainage ditch

The eggs are laid in slow moving and still water sources. The eggs will develop into tadpoles and eventually transform into baby frogs.  I often find tadpoles thriving in farming water buckets.

Ryukyu Kajika frog

Ryukyu Kajika frog -tadpoles

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tadpole transformation- metamorphosis

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Juvenile Kajika frog

The summer months provide a great opportunity for natural predators.The frogs come together in a large numbers.

Crab feeding on frogs

Crab feeding on frogs

Ryukyu Kajika frog

Pryer’s keelback feeding

If you see frogs, there is a possibility that snakes are near by. The snakes patiently wait for frogs in drainage ditches and still water sources. The Kajika frog is the Hime habu’s favorite meal.

Hime habu - GoPro

Hime habu – GoPro

Please subscribe below! Have a great day!

 

Asian grass frog – Amphibians of the Ryukyu Islands

The Asian grass frog  ( Fejervarya limnocharis ) is found on Mainland Japan and most of the Ryukyu Islands. The warty frog is fairly common on Okinawa. It’s biggest threats are pesticide exposure and habitat loss.

  • Scientific name: Fejervarya limnocharis
  • Common name: Asian grass frog, marsh frog and common pond frog
  • Distribution: Ryukyu Islands and Mainland Japan
  • Habitat: Rice fields, ditches, marshes, parks and farm fields.
  • Diet: Insects
  • Average size: 45mm-75mm
  • Color: light brown with a white belly
Asian grass frog - 60mm macro

Asian grass frog – Canon 70d * 60mm macro

Wide angle macro - Canon 70d *Tokina fisheye

Wide angle macro – Canon 70d *Tokina fisheye

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Asian grass frog- Macro

Asian marsh frog - drainage ditch

Asian marsh frog – drainage ditch

Asian marsh frog

Asian marsh frog

Asian grass frog feeding

Asian grass frog feeding

Asian marsh frog - Okuma resort

Asian marsh frog – Okuma resort

Asian grass frog -MYN

Asian grass frog -MYN

Egret feeding -the last goodbye

Egret feeding -the last goodbye

Have a great day!

Okinawa green tree frog – Ryukyu Islands

The Okinawa green tree frog ( Rhacophorus viridis viridis ) is found on Okinawa, Iheya and Kume Island.

  • Scientific name: Rhacophorus viridis viridis
  • Common name: Okinawa Green tree frog
  • Distribution: Okinawa, Kume, and Iheya.
  • Habitat: Forests, mountain slopes and farm fields near water.
  • Diet: Insects
  • Average size: 45mm-75mm
  • Color: Olive green, Bright green and dark brown
Okinawa Green tree frog

Okinawa Green tree frog

This beautiful frog is a master of camouflage.  I often find it resting on tree branches, blending in with the surrounding green leaves.

Natural habitat

Natural habitat

Green tree frog

Green tree frog

Breading season stretches from February to April on Okinawa.

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Green tree frog mating

On Kume Island the tree frogs transform to a golden brown when mating.

Kume Island tree frog

Kume Island tree frog

They construct a foam nest on a tree branch above a still water source. Eventually the foam liquefies when the eggs are ready to hatch.

Frog foam nest

Frog foam nest

Not all frogs survive to make the nest. The Akamata is the most common snake on the Okinawan Islands.  It feeds on venomous habu snakes, baby sea turtles, lizards and frogs.

Akamata feeding

Akamata feeding

 

Photographed on white for the Meet your Neighbours global biodiversity project.

MYN Technique

MYN Technique

MYN Technique

MYN Technique

Green tree frog

Green tree frog

I often find this frog searching for insects on the road.

Roadside green tree frog

Roadside green tree frog

Let’s protect the wildlife of Okinawa.

 

 

Seagulls on Okinawa -

Every winter, I see a few Black-tailed gulls (Larus crassirostris) on our shorelines. They generally do not stay for longer than two weeks. In January 2016,  I photographed eight Black-tailed gulls on Nagahama beach. Four gulls had oil residue stuck on their feathers. The birds were constantly bathing in the sea water and preening. The Black-tailed gulls are abundant on the mainland, but on Okinawa they are a rare sight.

Juvenile Black-tailed gull

Possible reasons why there are no seagulls living on Okinawa.  

  • Warm water temperatures – too warm ( 68F- 88F)
  • Not enough food (fish, worms, mollusks)
  • Competition with other birds ( osprey, terns and crows )
  • Small land mass

A mature Black-tailed gull bathing and preening. It was working hard trying to get the oil residue off its feathers.

Black-tailed gull bathing

Black-tailed gull drying off

Shaking off

Shaking off

Black-tailed gull preening

Black-tailed gull preening

Black-tailed gull

Black-tailed gull

Black-tailed gull

Mature gulls feeding on fish scraps

Black-tailed gull feeding

Black-tailed gull feeding

Have a great day !