A Japanese city aquarium has made an amazing discovery. A pair of rays at the Kagoshima City Aquarium in Kyushu, Japan – which were on display since its opening in 1997 – have been identified as a new species.
Researchers believe that the misidentified giant guitarfish at the city aquarium are a new species of ray. They have named them as Rhynachobatusmononoke, because of its close resemblance to a ‘mononoke’ – a vengeful spirit from Japanese folklore. The aquarium rays have rounder heads, dorsal fins and black spots on their pectoral fins, which is usually not the case with giant guitar fish.
The rays are part of the Kuroshio Great Water Tank, which is a popular attraction at the aquarium. However, they do not draw much attention as they spend most of their time submerged at the bottom of the tank. The researchers at Kagoshima took 23 years to determine that a couple of rays at the local aquarium are indeed a new species.
It was revealed in a joint research operation involving the Kagoshima City Aquarium along with Kuroshio Biological Research Institute and the Kagoshima University Museum, before they could ascertain that these species of rays were a previously undiscovered species.
Keita Koeda, a scientist working with the Kuroshio Biological Research Institute compared the rays in the aquarium to photos of the giant guitarfish taken in the waters near the coastal city of Satsumasendai. While the guitar fish’s body resembles a shark, it also shares some features of the stingray as well.
Koeda noticed that the shape of the aquarium rays’ heads was less sharp and their dorsal fins were rounder than the guitar fish, according to Asahi Shinbun reports.
They have been designated as an endangered species by the Switzerland based International Union for Conservation of Nature, the giant guitarfish can grow longer than eight feet long.
It is the first instance in close to a decade that a new species of ray has been discovered from Japanese waters.