To celebrate the 120th anniversary of the discovery of spherical algae specimens in Lake Akan of Japan, the National Taiwan Museum will hold an exhibition to offer a live glimpse of the rare alga from Dec. 2, 2017 through Feb. 25, 2018.
Known as “Marimo” or “lake ball” in Japan, Aegagropila linnaei is a freshwater green alga that can only grow in extremely clean water. As the alga forms a special 3D ball-like and velvety appearance, it is also called the “Gemstone in Lake Akan.” Local Ainu aboriginals also believe that Marimo is the incarnation of their gods.
Marimo was first discovered in 1897 and published the following year as a new species by Japanese botanist Takiya Kawakami (川上瀧彌) when he was studying in Hokkaido-based Sapporo Agricultural College. Such algae are also known to form in Australia, Estonia, Iceland, and Scotland.
Marimo clusters have been designated as Natural Monuments of Japan in 1921 and Special Natural Monuments in 1952 by the Japanese government. A Marimo Exhibition and Observation Center has also been established at the Churui Island of Lake Akan for the public to learn about this species.
This exhibition in Taipei will showcase living Marimo from Hokkaido as well as display the history, biology, and recent research on Marimo.
NTM Deputy Director Wang Yi-chun (王逸群) noted that Marimo embodies cultural, educational, and preservation significance. Understanding such alga could help connect communities to participate in environmental preservation and raise public awareness of aboriginal cultures.
The opening ceremony was attended by Mayor Hiroya Ebina (蝦名大也) of Kushiro, who represented the city government to give gifts of living Marimo balls, handicrafts, and Marimo samples to the museum.
A new permanent exhibition titled “Discovering Taiwan: Re-visiting the Age of Natural History and Naturalist of Taiwan” at the museum will also showcase specimens and artifacts collected by Kawakami, the late Japanese botanist who discovered Marimo among other plant species.
Kawakami had visited Taiwan in 1903 to conduct investigations on vegetation across the island, including plants growing on Jade Mountain and outlying islands. He also established the Natural History Society of Taiwan to promote research and collection of samples from Taiwan’s natural and cultural resources. Kawakami’s studies provide valuable records and findings of Taiwan flora, and over 40 species are named after him.
‘Takiya Kawakami and the Nature of Akan’