Japan’s first ever snake eel that lives in river found in Genka River

Japan’s first ever snake eel that lives in river found in Genka River

Specimen of a kawa-umi snake that was discovered at the Genka River in Nago City (photograph provided by Okinawa Churashima Foundation)


April 6, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo


On April 5, the research group of Okinawa Churashima Foundation Research Center announced that the snake eel found at the Genka River of Nago City last June was in fact a Mindoro snake eel Lamnostoma mindorum.

This particular Hydrophiinae was discovered for the first time in Japan.

This is also the first time in which a Hydrophiinae that inhabits fresh water was found in Japan.

It was named kawa-umi hebi, or river-sea snake, in Japanese.

This is the sixth location that this snake eel has been found in the world and it was discovered at the northern limit of the Genka River.


Office worker Tetsuya Shintani and his sixth-grade son Shunpei from Kyoto City made the discovery.

They had found the snake eel in the Genka River and had taken it home to raise.

When Shintani had inquired with the foundation regarding rearing methods, the possibility of it being a new species being spotted for the first time in Japan arose, especially since it was discovered in fresh water.


Unfortunately, the snake eel died last year around October, so Shintani and his son had presented it to the research center as a specimen.

The research center then looked into the body type and number of bones.

After comparing their information with an article on the morphology of the same species found in Taiwan, the research team was able to confirm that it was in fact a Lamnostoma mindorum.


Research center Animal Study Section Chief Shinichiro Oka said, “This discovery points to just how biologically diverse Okinawa is.

The fact that general citizens made this discovery is significant as well.”


The discovery was publicized on “Fauna Ryukuana,” an academic journal that covers animal distribution in the Ryukyu Islands.


(English translation by T&CT and Chelsea Ashimine)



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