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Sunday April 14, 2024

Skeleton panda sea squirt sprays Japanese researchers with questions

Skeleton panda sea squirt have been nicknamed "gaikotsupandahoya" by Japanese netizens

By Web Desk
February 20, 2024
Japanese skeleton panda sea squirt in the sea. — Diving Shop Plus Alpha/File
Japanese "skeleton panda sea squirt" in the sea. — Diving Shop Plus Alpha/File

Divers visiting the Japanese island of Kumejima have become familiar with a new skeleton panda sea squirt species because of its unusual skeleton-like body structure and black markings that resemble pandas'.

Japanese internet users gave it the nickname "gaikotsupandahoya" (literally, "skeleton panda sea squirt") as soon as it was released online, according to Reuters and CBS Newspath.

However, scientists have never examined the tiny sea creature, which may grow up to 2 centimetres (0.78 inches) in size.

Then, on February 1, a new report by Japanese researchers was released, giving the skeleton panda sea squirt its official scientific name, Clavelina ossipandae. The Latin names of the sea squirt, "Clavelina," which means "little bottle," and "ossipandae," which refers to its skeleton and panda-like appearance, designate it as a distinct species.

"The white parts that look like bones are the blood vessels that run horizontally through the sea squirts' gills. The black parts on the head that look like a panda's eyes and nose are just a pattern, and we don't really know why the pattern is there," said Naohiro Hasegawa, a researcher specialising in sea squirts from the University of Hokkaido in northern Japan and lead author on the new paper.

While using Twitter (now X) in 2018, Hasegawa came across pictures of the skeleton panda sea squirt for the first time.

"It was at that point that I realised it was probably quite rare because it looks different to the other sea squirts," he said.

In 2017, a friend first exposed Shunji Terai, a Kumejima diver, to sea squirts. After viewing the odd species on social media, consumers are now drawn to his diving store on the island.