Somewhere in Japan

Dispatch № 54: Resident Alien

35°44’18.31″N, 139°35’38.25″E

They come out at night and look like alien worms, with glistening yellow bodies and fan-shaped heads. When it rains, they emerge from the ground and hunt. They are predators, preying on earthworms, insect larvae, and the like.

Bipalium nobile, a type of land planarian about which not a great deal is known. A relatively recent discovery, too, first having been documented in Tokyo in the late nineteen-sixties when a specimen was collected in the garden of the Imperial Palace. It was established as a new species a decade later.

Their bodies are especially long, measuring up to a meter in length. They are delicate, too, and easily break apart if one tries to move them or they are otherwise damaged.

Bipalium nobile specimen at Shakujii Park

Fortunately for the organism, it benefits from the same regenerative abilities possessed by many planarians. If bisected, the section without a head is fully capable of growing one, resulting in two separate, fully functional animals.

The first time I encountered them, at Shakujii Park in Tokyo’s Nerima ward, it did initially feel as if I were seeing something from a different world. Once the initial shock had passed, though, they immediately became fascinating.

Whenever it rains, I look for them and observe those that I find. Some days, they seem to be everywhere, though most people I’ve asked aren’t really aware of them.

But then, people are generally unaware of nature being around them all the time. And it really is all around them all the time, even in the city.

If you pay attention, amazing creatures are everywhere, including strange, ribbon-like planarians hunting earthworms in the rain, looking like something straight out of a science fiction novel.

Bipalium nobile specimen at Shakujii Park

One thought on “Dispatch № 54: Resident Alien

  1. My god. I had to look this up. The critter’s mouth can be closer to the tail than the head! Thanks for sharing this, I’ll be sure to not look for these.

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Picture of David R Munson

David R Munson

Photographer, essayist, wanderer, weirdo. Everything is interesting if you give it an honest chance to be.

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