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“Extinct” salmon discovered in Japanese lake.

by National Geographic:

A Japanese salmon thought to have been extinct for 70 years has been discovered in a lake near Mount Fuji.

The kunimasu salmon, also called the black kokanee, is a subspecies of sockeye salmon that’s found only in Japan. Unlike true sockeye, which migrate between freshwater and the oceans, the many types of kokanee salmon live and reproduce entirely in lakes.

 the kunimasu is the darker fish at the bottom compared with the more common hiramisu.

A seemingly unsuccessful 1935 program to release kunimasu eggs in Lake Saiko, in the foothills of Mount Fuji (map), had been forgotten—until recently, when the head of a local fishing association sent an odd sample to a Japanese television personality who is obsessed with fish.

Sakana-kun—a nickname meaning Mr. Fish—is best known for appearing on TV in his trademark white laboratory coat and blowfish-shaped hat. His self-taught expertise earned him the title of visiting associate professor at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

The first indicator was that the kunimasu spawns in March, while the himemasu spawns in the fall. The newly rediscovered species also spawns at a depth of between 98 and 131 feet (30 and 40 meters), a behavior not seen in other species in Lake Saiko.

The final clues came from the number of gill rakers—bony, finger-like projections on the gill arches of filter feeders—and the structure of the pyloric caeca, finger-shaped stomach pouches that secrete digestive enzymes, Nakabo said.

The experts now think that some ten thousand kunimasu salmon inhabit Lake Saiko, which is fed by underground water from Mount Fuji, keeping its deepest reaches at the constantly cold temperatures the salmon prefer.

The Japanese government is now in the process of removing the kunimasu from its list of extinct species and drawing up plans to protect the fish’s last known habitat.

National Geographic

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