New Species Discovered in Oura Bay and Kin Bay, but Habitat in Danger from Base Construction

Febraury 21, 2017 (Original article July 23, 2016) by Ryukyu Shimpo

Assistant Professor Takuma Fujii from the Amami Station in Kagoshima University’s Research Center for the Pacific Islands and Associate Professor James Davis Reimer from the Ryukyu University’s Graduate School of Engineering and Science have announced the discovery of Sphenopus exilis, a new species of the genus Sphenopus. This discovery was made in 2016 in Oura Bay and Kin Bay off the eastern coast of Okinawa Island. The findings were published in the international research magazine “ZooKeys” on July 21, 2016. According to Professor Fujii, this is the first discovery of a new species of the genus Sphenopus in over 100 years.

A new species of genus Sphenopus has not been discovered since the discovery of three species between 1870 and 1880. Currently, the newly discovered Sphenopus exilis has so far only been confirmed to inhabit Oura Bay and Kin Bay.

Sphenopus exilis inhabits the silt seafloor inside the bays, where the current is gentle. It is the smallest species of all Sphenopus, with a polyp length ranging from 1-2.4 cm. It is characterized by slender tentacles capable of stretching. It is believed that the tentacles act as anchors to keep it from drifting away in the soft, unstable silt seafloor.

Most organisms that inhabit a silt seafloor are species no larger than grains of sand and enjoy a “microenvironment” with a slightly differing water quality. Professor Fujii indicated that, “It is possible that Sphenopus exilis is susceptible to negative effects from even slight changes such as red soil and agricultural chemical runoff, and tidal changes from seawalls. Large-scale inflows of contaminated water from dams, landfills and base construction puts its natural habitat in great danger.”
The above research was conducted from 2009 to 2014

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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