Is This Sushi-Like Creature Real?


Hold the wasabi. That piece of salmon nigiri may not be suitable for digestion. 

Discovered by a fisherman off the Japanese island of Hokkaido, a small, spineless marine species rose to internet fame for its uncanny resemblance to a sushi favorite. 

At the time of this writing, more than 28,000 Twitter users had engaged with a July 19, 2021, post shared to Twitter by Aquamarine Fukushima, a Japanese aquarium.

Some compared the creature to a piece of salmon nigiri. 

In an email to Snopes, aquarium spokesperson Akiko Tsuchihashi said that experts believe the specimen has been formally described by the scientific community. But without a dissection, they are not able to determine its precise species. As Vice reported, the creature belongs to the genus Rocinelai, an animal without a backbone commonly known as isopods. There are roughly 40 Rocinelai species around the world, only seven of which are known to occur in Japan. 

Isopods are related to crabs, shrimps, and lobsters, but they among the most diverse and abundant of crustaceans. NOAA estimates that there are around 10,000 species around the world that come in many shapes and sizes, from the tops of mountains to the depths of the ocean. Perhaps the most familiar isopod is the childhood favorite, the pill bug. 

“Isopods often do not look alike, but they do have common features. For example, all isopods have two pairs of antennae, compound eyes, and four sets of jaws. The body, or pereon, of all isopods consists of seven segments, each with its own pair of walking legs. Isopods have a short abdominal section composed of six segments, called ‘pleons,’ and one or more of these segments is fused into a tail section. Each pleon has a set of biramous (branching in two) limbs called “pleopods” that are used for swimming and respiration,” said the research institution.

And Tsuchihashi added that despite its “very cute” appearance, the isopod is a fish parasite that must “suck blood to live.” 

Image courtesy of Aquamarine Fukushima.

Sources

Japanese Aquarium Found a Creature That Looks Like a Piece of Salmon Sushi. https://www.vice.com/en/article/4avjng/salmon-sushi-japanese-aquarium. Accessed 11 Oct. 2021.

US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. What Is an Isopod?: Ocean Exploration Facts: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/facts/isopod.html. Accessed 11 Oct. 2021.





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