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Mythical monsters discovered in Japan’s depths. They can light up the ocean

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Japanese researchers have discovered three species of bioluminescent polychaetes – marine invertebrates. Polycirrus onibi, Polycirrus ikeguchii and Polycirrus aoandon live in three different regions of Japan. Although they are small in size, they look like creatures from Japanese legends.

The phenomenon of bioluminescence – the emission of light by living organisms – has been observed in over 7,000 species worldwide. Despite this, scientists have studied only a small fraction of them. Many of them inhabit the sea depths, which are extremely inhospitable to humans, which makes it difficult to discover and identify them. Scientists from Nagoya University managed to discover as many as three new species, which were described in the scientific journal “Royal Society Open Science”.

Three different species

As Naoto Jimi, the main author of the publication, said, organisms of the genus Polycirrus are particularly valuable in research on the phenomenon of bioluminescence. When scientists came across a trail of “sea worms” off the coast of Japan, they initially thought they were dealing with a single species. Only further analysis showed that the animals actually belonged to three different species.

Two newly discovered species – Polycirrus onibi and Polycirrus aoandon – they were named after yōkai, supernatural beings found in Japanese mythology and folk lore.

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Polycirrus aoandon discovered off the coast of Sugashima Island. This organism is named after the yōkai Aoandon, a spirit-like creature with blue skin, long hair, horns, and sharp teeth who wears a white kimono and carries a blue lantern. Aoandon is said to be invoked by those who have spent the night sharing supernatural stories.

Polycirrus aoandon Naoto Jimi et al., Royal Society

Name Polycirrus onibi it alludes to the fire demon Onibi. According to Japanese legends and beliefs, this creature was born from the corpses of people and animals.

Polycirrus onibi Naoto Jimi et al., Royal Society

A glow from a legend

As the scientist explained, the purple-blue glow emitted by newly discovered species Polycirrus is strikingly similar to the descriptions of creatures found in fairy tales and legends, hence the idea of ​​naming them in honor of folk tales.

third name – Polycirrus ikeguchii – is a tribute to the former director of the Notojima Aquarium, Shinichi Ikeguchi. This species was found in the waters near this building. It is also the largest of the described species – its body is 45 millimeters long.

Polycirrus ikeguchii Naoto Jimi et al., Royal Society

‘Understanding the mechanisms of luminescence is important for medical and life science research,’ explained Jimi. – Bioluminescence is a treasure trove of interesting and unusual chemistry. We intend to use our findings to deepen our understanding of the molecular nature of this phenomenon.

What are polychaetes?

Polychaetes (Polychatea) are organisms found mainly in water. These invertebrates belong to the annelid phylum, which also includes common earthworms. Polychaetes inhabit all marine environments – from the depths to the coast. They have elongated bodies divided into segments. They live in a free or sedentary form, mainly in the coastal zone, in the sand or silt of the seabed.

royalsocietypublishing.org, Science Alert

Main photo source: Naoto Jimi et al., Royal Society

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