Damsel in Distress

Field Facts:

Fact #1 - Yonaguni Island is the westernmost inhabited island of Japan. It lies 67 miles (108 km) from the east coast of Taiwan, between the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is surrounded by crystal-clear waters, coral reefs and white sandy beaches.

 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Connormah

Fact #2 - Cape Irizaki is at the western tip of the island. If you stand here, you will be last person in Japan to see the setting sun. But don't worry! There's plenty of daylight left to complete this mission. Read on…

Fact #3 - The Yonaguni horse is one of eight types of Japanese horses and the smallest horse in Japan. It only can be found on the island of Yonaguni. Long ago, the horse was used for farming, but with the invention of modern machinery, the islanders stopped breeding them. This led to their numbers dropping to just 59 horses in 1975. A committee was formed to preserve the Yonaguni horse and people to began breeding them again. Now there are over 100. See what happens when people make laws to protect wild animals? Today, the Yonaguni horse is a proud symbol of the island. Just like Arashi!

Fact #4 - Coral reefs are underwater structures made from colonies of tiny living animals. Reefs grow best in warm, shallow, clear and sunny waters. They are called "rain forests of the sea" and are some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth.

Fact #5 - Coral reefs take up less than 0.1% of the world's ocean surface, but provide a home for 25% of all marine species, including fish, mollusks, worms, crustaceans, sponges, and other species. They are also the perfect place for young damselfish to play hide-and seek, so be on the lookout!

Fact #6 - Coral reefs support the livelihoods of millions of people by supplying seafood and building materials, and are also sources for medicinal products. Reefs protect shorelines and communities from storms and erosion. Today, coral reefs around the world are in danger of being destroyed by human activities and global climate change.

Fact #7 - Many species of colorful damselfish live in tropical coral reefs and can grow up to 14 inches (36 cm) long. Their diet includes small crustaceans, plankton, and algae.

Blue Damselfish. Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Fact #8 - Damselfish tend to underwater gardens of red algae in the coral reefs. It's true! They are the only known fish in the world that actually cultivate algae farms on the sea floor! I wonder how they get their tractors down there? (Just kidding about the tractor part.)

Fact #9 - Speaking of underwater activities…In 1986, a local diver named Kihachiro Aratake, discovered a mysterious sunken ruins near Yonaguni Island. The dive site is located 33 feet (10 meters) underwater and contains huge stone building blocks with carvings on them. The main monument is over 160 feet (48 m) long and 60 feet (18 m) high, with perfect rectangular corners. There are stone steps and terraces that look like the Mayan ruins of South America. There is even a carved stone turtle that greets divers at the main entrance. Some people think the markings are due to natural erosion and some think they are evidence of an ancient civilization. What do you think? Maybe it's the work of the naughty Litterbugs!?!

Fact #10 - Be careful! The water around the walls and stairs of the ruins are also famous for Hammerhead sharks, that gather in schools of over 100 during the winter months. Some divers have reported seeing sharks that are over 15 feet long.

OK. Now that you have all the facts, it's time to head for Japan!

 

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