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An International Adventure in Japan
Cnidarian Tree of Life Project
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Cnid ToL
Week 5, August 21-28
August 21

Yokosuka was the destination of one subgroup of the gang (Allen, Jen, Cheryl & LG). The main goals were to forge collaborations and obtain medusozoan samples. First, we were to meet with Adati-san, a jellyfish aquarist, curator, and researcher at the Enoshima Aquarium. The second destination was to JAMSTEC (Japan Marine Science and Technology Center) where we would meet with Lindsay-san, who conducts research on deep sea jellies, among other things.

Being hosted by both of these scientists was a treat!

Japan has an amazing array of trains. On the way to the aquarium, we took a ride on this amazing monorail, which weaved and literally flew through various neighborhoods. Allen and LG thought this a particularly fun way to travel, but Cheryl was quick to point out that she knew a different way back to the hotel. Yokosuka
Enoshima Aquarium


Adati-san greeted us outside the aquarium upon our arrival, then led us on a tour of both the public areas and "behind-the-scenes", both of which are impressive!

She and her colleagues have been very successful in culturing many different jellies, including a number of species that are not on display. The group walked through the refrigerated lab room to get an idea of which species she has. It is from these cultures that she will send the CniToL group specimens. She also explained some of the techniques she uses to keep the animals healthy.

Not only did the group learn about her work, she also showed us the tanks where sea turtles -- some of which exceeded 50 years in age -- and various large fish, including hammer-head sharks were housed. Aquarium Cultures
Sea Turtle Hammerhead

Chiropsalmus quadrigatus

In the public area of the aquarium they have an amazing display of different jellyfish, most of which are found in Japanese waters. Here are just two of the species species we saw.

The first picture is of Catostylus. The different colors are caused by the different algal symbionts that live with them.

The second picture shows Chiropsalmus quadrigatus. Can you see them looking at the photographer? Yes, they have eyes. They are cubozoans like the Carybdea species we found at night at the docks in Shirahama. However, Chiropsalmus represents a very divergent group of Cubozoa, meaning that it will be especially helpful for the cnidarian Tree of Life project.

Right outside the aquarium is a boardwalk and beautiful beach. There were many people, mostly teens and young adults enjoying the place. Lunch was a feast of Okinawan-style tacos and taco-rice.
After lunch was a brief meeting with Adati-san to finalize plans for the future. To fill the lag-time before Adati-san's aquarium show the group watched a dolphin show unlike any seen in the States. It was a combination of song and dance, and dolphin interactions. It was amazing to see people being pushed underwater then popped up on stage by the various dolphins.

Cheryl was particularily excited to learn that one of the star dolphins shared her Japanese name! Go "sherydoo"!

Dolphin Show
Aquarium Show Adati-san's show was fantastic. She SCUBA dived in their largest tank with a headset and video camera. Members of the audience could raise their hand and suggest what animals she should follow with the camera. The organism's actions were then broadcast on a large TV that everyone could see. Meanwhile another aquarium worker talked about the animals.

LittleGuy used his increasingly diverse Japanese vocabulary to ask her to follow a ray. He screamed "ay" into the microphone. Wonder how that felt under water?

Before getting back to our hotel, we of course had a really great meal!
The evening before the aquarium adventure, we happened upon this dancing festival while stretching our legs around our hotel. The dancers invited the crowd to join in the dancing and were very good about trying to teach the steps.

Here is Jen trying her moves.

There was also lots of yummy food sold and kids could win a free treat by winning a game of Rocks - Paper - Scissors.


Jen's Moves

Shower Toilet Instructions Here is something we have been meaning to write about.

There are a variety of toilets here in Japan. There is the traditional toilet built into the ground, then there are the Western toilets, and finally. . . these fancy SHOWER toilets. Read the instructions carefully, then watch what happens when you push the "Shower - For Rinsing" button. First a little arm moves out from somewhere, then a very strong spray of water jets up into the air directed for...well, you read the instructions. Many of these fancier toilets also had heated seats. Rather pleasant actually, especially after cold water diving according to Meg.

Toilet Toilet Spray
August 22

Today we are off to JAMSTEC!

On the way we passed by this department store at the train station. It is customary that women such as this one stand still infront of the door until it is opening time. After the guard unlocks and opens the doors these women bow and verbally greet the customers as they come in. Apparently, the jobs are very difficult to land in require certain looks as well as a particularly distinctive voice.

Department Store Greeters
Dhugal and Allen JAMSTEC is an absolutely amazing place. It is sort of the equivalent to NOAA in the United States, but the emphasis is on deep sea research. The research done here is primarily geologic, though there is a comparatively small biology department. It is here that Lindsay-san works on deep sea organisms. His research is diverse, and a big part of it focuses on jellies.
Before getting down to business, Lindsay-san gave a fantastic tour of the facilities. The group explored the various submersibles on display, including ones similar to those he works in.

He explained that the dives are usually about 8 hours long. The submersible goes straight to the bottom, taking about two hours to get to the depths that he works. Often it is very hot on the surface, but once the researchers get to the bottom, it gets very cold and warm clothing has to be worn. The scientist lays flat on his/her belly and looks out little portholes into the darkness telling the co-pilot where to aim the camera and collection arms. The pilot sits in a chair and continues communication with the vessel above and keeps things functioning well.

At the facility there are a number of tanks containing organisms from deep water, including a number from vent and whale fall communities. They are able to study these animals in the laboratory in ways that are not possible from a submersible. For instance, they have made great progress in understanding the early development of a number of these species.
Here is long range AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) that is used for making detailed maps of the sea floor.
JAMSTEC has a valuable collection of various deep sea specimens. They are still figuring out how to best preserve various animals since many are very delicate and change shape and color with chemicals commonly used.

The collection includes numerous specimens that have been frozen. These are particularly good for genetic analyses. Dhugal and Allen discussed how these specimens could be used to benefit of both Dhugal's research and the tree of life project. Allen is exceedingly pleased at the prospect of working with Dhugal.

After JAMSTEC, it was staight home to Shirahama. After a couple of subway rides, we made it to the bullet train and quickly made our way halfway across Honshu. We were in a hurry and the weather was HOT. All in all, we were in great need of ions and water. But fortunately the wonderful vending machines in Japan supply a variety of what are known as "ion drinks". This is Allen's favorite. It is a little odd to drink something called Sweat, but it is actually rather refreshing. As is Calpis. You'll have to try it to be convinced. Pocari Sweat
Allen Introduction August 23

Today we put on a mini-symposium. As visitors we wanted to share some of our work with our Japanese colleagues.

Allen donned his yukata and got the whole thing rolling with a two-part presentation. First he introduced the Cnidarian Tree of Life Project. He then followed that up with a review of our current understanding of higher-level relationships within Cnidaria. That's right. He left the tough topics for Meg and Tim.

Meg tackled the task of summarizing present views of anthozoan phylogeny. Only about one half of Cnidaria!

Among the guests was a prominent octocoral worker in Japan, Imahra-san. As Meg explained, octocorals have been one of the more difficult groups within Cnidaria. Most modern studies of cnidarian groups have revealed a great deal of correspondence between molecular and morphological data. Such is not the case for octocorals! Fortunately, our collaborators (Cathy McFadden, Scott France, Juan Sanchez and Phil Alderslade) have been making wonderful strides in reconciling the conflicting data.

Meg Gives a Talk
Tim Gives a Talk Tim was tasked with another difficult topic, hydrozoan phylogeny.

There are over 3,500 species of hydrozoans (roughly one third of Cnidaria), and there are many areas within the hydrozoan tree that remain unclear. Fortunately, Tim has played a major role in clarifying hydrozoan relationships and was very clear in laying a number of critical nodes within the tree that our project hopes to resolve. As with all the presentations, Tim showed many beautiful pictures of our study animals.

The intimate life of jellies. . . .

The best was certainly saved for last. Cheryl shifted gears (nearly completely avoided systematics) and explained all about the courtship and sexual behaviours of the cubozoan Carybdea sivickisi, as well as its early development.

It was pretty much as we all described in the week four log, but with much more scientific language. Very fascinating. What would the day bring next?

Cheryl Discuss the Intimate Life of Jellies
Shin Sings Beautifully Karaoke!

Need we say more? Do we have to? Shin is famous for his love (and skills) of karaoke. Other than Cheryl, who is a gung-ho karaoke singer, each of us had escaped the embarassment of hearing our own voice substituted for those of the singers we admire. That all came to an end.

Cheryl belts it out!

Given her experience with Japan, it is no surprise that Cheryl took to the karaoke experience easily. She was amazing. Nevertheless, others remained shy and wondered how long this experience might last.

cheryl Belts It Out
Dancing Queen Little by little, however, we began to relax.

It was probably Cheryl's rendition of ABBA's Dancing Queen that really started to loosen things up.

. . . .
If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle - that's the thing.

And...always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the light side of life...

For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin - give the audience a grin
Enjoy it - it's your last chance anyhow.

So always look on the bright side of death
Just before you draw your terminal breath

Life's a piece of shit
When you look at it
. . . .

words and music by Eric Idle

Always Look on the Bright Side
Tim Sings

Jen Sings


You never know what you are going to learn when you go to karaoke with someone. Our Japanese friends were patient with our bizarre musical tastes. It turns out that Jen and Tim were our resident head bangers. Their choices included Metallica and Iron Maiden. Allen liked the punk (and made a mental note: never attempt Belle & Sebastian in the presence of anyone). Meg's tastes are pretty eclectic. While the other two brasilians. . . .

. . . .were so shy (or rather relieved) that very few (count them, zero) songs were in Portuguese. We did however stumble upon an English version of The Girl from Ipanema, which they took to with a little prompting.

Actually, after six plus hours in the karaoke joint, we were actually dragged from the place for a big dinner. As this was the last night for Allen, Jen, LG, and Cheryl in Shirahama, we had to celebrate the success (and fun) of our trip with a big dinner.

Brasilians Singing
Sun Going Down

It's in the hole!

On the way back from the karaoke joint, we saw that something amazing was going to happen.

The angle was a bit wrong where we all pulled over, so we had to run back to just the right spot. We weren't the only ones trying to capture a rare shot. Unfortunately the setting sun was obscured a bit, so that we did not get a round sun in the round hole in the rock, of which we have all grown so fond. On the other hand, we got a pretty decent treat.

Our final dinner all together was excellent, completing a stellar culinary run. Korean BBQ was the choice, and a good one it was.

What a day! A cnidarian symposium, hours of karaoke, and a fantastic meal. What could possibly come next? You guessed it. Most everyone partook of a Japanese onsen.

Last Dinner All Together

Dinner Group

Seen Off at the Train! August 24

The last day for Allen, Jen and LG. Prior to heading off to the train, we obtained one more species. The freshwater jellyfish Craspedacusta! Kubota-san's son picked up three nice specimens for us. Amazingly, it was our 100th medusozoan (non-anthozoan cnidarian) species sampled on this excursion.

Well, what a trip!?!! We'll probably leave the commentary here. Unless tidbits from the next few days come in from abroad. What more can we say? It was a total blast.

2006 -- All images copyright by Cheryl Ames, Allen Collins, Jennifer Collins, Meg Daly, Luciana Gusmao, Antonio Marques, and/or Alvaro Migotto and may not be copied or re-used without explicit permission.