Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sumida Aquarium

Went on a trip to Tokyo this past week and, my goodness, do I have many photos to share. The public transportation system in Tokyo is incredible, by the way. They can get you from anywhere to anywhere else in less than an hour most of the time (and usually much quicker than that). In fact, many of the attractions I visited lacked adequate parking facilities and encouraged visitors to reach them by public transport instead. It can, however, get extremely crowded during peak times. Among the many locations I stopped by that may be of interest, first was the Sumida Aquarium.

The aquarium is situated on Tokyo Skytree, the tallest human-constructed structure in Japan. Here is a shot of the first displays you see upon entering. They are mainly intended to showcase big-picture concepts such as freshwater ecosystems and natural aquascaping, so the animal species exhibited are mostly commonplace ones you can often find in pet stores (e.g.: many tetra, rainbowfish, and catfish species).

There is a nice jellyfish collection at the aquarium. I'd even consider their jellyfish collection one of their highlights, for there were many species I had not seen in North American aquariums. That said, moon jellies are rather pedestrian.

Ctenophores, however, are less commonly represented. These are Bolinopsis mikado. Okay, they are not jellyfish, but they're also known as comb jellies and were exhibited alongside true jellyfish.

Here are some rarely-seen jellyfish that really are jellyfish, flower hat jellies.

Another one, a clinging jellyfish. Upon cursory research, it appears that all these species can be found in the waters near Japan, which is also true for the vast majority of other animals at this aquarium.

Next we come to a series of small tanks set into the wall, each showcasing a different species. These are red-toothed triggerfish.

A few other tanks nearby had deep-sea organisms in them, which was interesting to see. Here are a basket star and an isopod.

A species of weever. Confusingly, trachinid fish are also called weevers, so sandperch may be the less disorienting name for this fish and its close kin.

A Japanese catfish.

The centerpiece of the aquarium is a large exhibit for what I think are Magellanic penguins. It may well have been the largest penguin exhibit I've ever seen and almost certainly the one that holds the greatest number of penguins. These photos do not quite do it justice. The exhibit itself is situated on the lower floor of the aquarium (whereas the first displays you encounter are on the top floor), but it is also visible from above.

The remaining displays on the top floor are a number of decently-sized tanks recreating coral reef habitats. One of these is almost exclusively home to garden eels. ("Almost exclusively" because shrimpfish were also present.) Despite the fact that these eels live in groups, I saw quite a few individuals squabbling amongst themselves. A rarer sight was one of them leaving its burrow and swimming around in the water column for quite some time! (Sadly, I don't have photos of that.)

A Japanese bullhead shark.

On the way to the lower floor, one goes down a sloping hallway with displays of various Japanese sea life along the way. These are conger eels.

Some crabs that weren't identified more specifically than "sesarmids".

Once on the lower floor proper, there is a large tank (also partially visible from the upper floor) that displays the marine ecosystem surrounding the islands offshore of Tokyo. I have... no pictures of it. I need to consider getting better representative photographs of institutions on my next trip someplace.

A view of the penguins from the lower floor, though crowds and constant movement made photography difficult.

Had you shown these fish to me without naming them, I would have readily identified them as mudskippers. In fact, they are leaping blennies, but they are so mudskipper-like to my eye that I wondered whether that was an alternative name for mudskipper for the longest time!

Somewhat hidden behind the large penguin exhibit is a similarly designed, but much smaller, enclosure for fur seals. (I did not catch the exact species.)

I came away from my travels with the impression that Japan has a strong general interest in natural history. This is evident from the obscure biological origins of many Pokémon, but some of the most striking examples came from the merchandise they sell in their gift shops! I don't remember ever seeing so many products based on garden eels in one place, not even in North American aquariums that exhibit them. Most eyecatching of all were these giant plush renditions that looked like bizarre candy canes.

This is but a minute selection of the much smaller plush accessories they had, including isopods, squid, Dumbo octopuses, oarfish, and anglerfish (of two species)!

They even had a variety of marine-biology-themed confectioneries.

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