I am a graduate student at UC Berkeley studying the diversity and evolution of whelks. This summer I was sponsored by the NSF (USA) and JSPS (Japan) to work with Dr. Seiji Hayashi at Nagoya University in Japan to collect buccinid gastropod (whelk) tissue samples and examine whelk shell collections at musems throughout Japan. Sugoi! Some of the snails that I study are pictured to the right.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


On July 1st I traveled north of Nagoya to Iwate Prefecture, which among other things is home to the town of Rikuzen-takata and its Sea and Shell Museum.
There were lots of holotype and paratype specimens and I got a chance to sample 35 buccinid protoconchs, which is part of my project.Amazingly, this was covered by the local newspaper! After a fews days of museum work and exhausting media attention (hee hee) I was antsy to explore the area. With the assistance of the curator I rented a bike. He checked my tire pressure and advised me to stay away from trucks.Then I was off for a few hours with a Japanese map and my camera! For more pictures, see here.One other thing that was particularly interesting about Rikuzen-Takata was the kind of pet sold in the local Family Mart.I loved having small pets as a kid, though mine were fluffy hamsters (see below) usually named after WWF professional wrestlers.The childhood pets of choice in northern Japan are not hamsters, but Rhinoceras beetles! Sugoi!These beetles are in a subfamily of the scarabs, the group immortalized in ancient Egyptian art. The rhinoceras beetle group has around 1,400 species and the scarab family in total has around 27,000 species. The snail family that I study, the Buccinidae, has maybe 1,000 or so species, though the relationships of all of these snails to each other is not well understood. For comparison; there are about 250 species of primates including us, about 4,500 species of mammals, 65,000 species of snails, 350,000 species of beetles, and 800,000+ species of insects nearly half of which are beetles.

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