Photo/IllutrationA specimen of “Astrodendrum spinulosum,” a new species (Provided by the Misaki Marine Biological Station of the University of Tokyo)

Two Japanese scientists discovered a new sea creature species through a study of specimens, including those collected by Emperor Hirohito (1901-1989) that were kept in storage at a museum.

Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, was a biologist.

Masanori Okanishi, a project assistant professor of biology with the University of Tokyo, and a co-researcher studied a group of brittle star species called “basket stars.”

Basket stars have a complicated structure involving five arms that repeatedly branch out, often like tree limbs. They measure 30-40 centimeters in size.

The taxonomy of basket stars, many of which live in the deep ocean, has yet to be fully studied.

The researchers compared basket star samples that had been kept in a facility in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, of the National Museum of Nature and Science with specimens stored at museums overseas.

The study found that specimens collected off the Pacific coast of Japan, including those gathered by Hirohito between 1930 and 1958 in Sagami Bay, had fine needles growing on their body surfaces.

Similar features are not found in previously known species.

The researchers decided the samples from Japan represent a new species, which they named “Astrodendrum spinulosum.”

They said their study underscores the scientific value of museum specimens.

Their findings were published in Zootaxa, a New Zealand specialist journal.