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Highly toxic sea anemones discovered off Itoman

Date Posted: 2002-05-28

A colony of highly toxic sea anemones was discovered off Daido Seawall in Itoman City. This is the first time the species that is very rare anywhere in the world has been discovered in Japan. The anemones were first discovered in 1999 and a research group headed by Dr. Hiromi Uchida of the Oceanic Research Center in Wakayama Prefecture has studied the animals for two years. According to researchers this is only the second time the species has been found anywhere since it was first discovered in 1820 in Tonga.

The anemone looks similar to dead coral stone and is about 30 cm in diameter. They burrow themselves inside dead corals and live very near the beach, in only 50 cm deep. If a human steps or touches the anemone, a sharp pain and swelling will ensue. The poison damages kidneys that will require treatment for a lifetime.

Officials at Okinawa Prefecture Environmental Hygiene Section consider the anemone potentially very dangerous. "We advise people to avoid areas where these anemones live. One should never walk on the reef barefoot or in slippers. If one is stung by anything on the reef, he or she should seek professional medical care immediately," and official said. They also say that they have received reports that the anemones have been seen in other areas around Okinawa. They ask that anyone who sees one should call 945-0083.

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