A Rogue Otter Mascot Named Chiitan Is Terrorizing Tourists and Wreaking Havoc in Japan

Koki Nagahama/Getty Images for Sunwolves
Koki Nagahama/Getty Images for Sunwolves

Japan has so many mascots—serving as ambassadors of everything from specific prefectures to city police departments—that it can be hard to keep track of them. But after upsetting citizens with his unconventional style, one unofficial mascot in the Japanese city of Susaki has stirred enough outrage to get the attention of city officials, The New York Times reports.

The controversy started last year when Susaki named a real-life celebrity otter to be its honorary tourism ambassador. Soon after, Chiitan—a costumed mascot inspired by the real otter—began appearing in public and in videos shared on social media. The twist? Susaki already had an official costumed mascot—Shinjo-kun, a character based on the now-extinct Japanese river otter. But the differences between the two otter mascots quickly became apparent.

Viral videos show Chiitan taking part in dangerous and occasionally creepy stunts. The character has been filmed flipping a car, biking on a half-pipe, and skateboarding on a treadmill. In one video captioned "Chiitan going to visit your house," the devilish mascot can be seen pulling a baseball bat from a locker, tucking it into its costume, and walking out of the room.

Even though Chiitan hasn't been officially endorsed by Susaki, he already has 906,000 followers on Twitter—nearly twice that of the actual otter the character is based on.

For all his fans, Chiitan has also attracted plenty of critics, with the city of Susaki receiving more than 100 complaints about the rogue character's inappropriate behavior. The city has no power to get rid of Chiitan, but it did elect not to renew the real otter's honorary tourism ambassador status as a way of voicing their disapproval of the unsanctioned mascot it inspired.

Mascots have become popular public relations tools in Japan, but usually they're much more family-friendly. In 2017, the Japanese government named Pikachu an official ambassador in an effort to promote Osaka as a host city candidate for the World Expo 2025.

[h/t The New York Times]

Archaeologists Uncover Infant Remains Wearing Skulls of Older Children

© Sara Juengst
© Sara Juengst

Archaeologists in Salango, Ecuador, recently uncovered two infant skeletons buried with "helmets" made from the skulls of older children, Gizmodo reports.

The discovery is the first of its kind, researchers write in a paper published in the journal Latin American Antiquity. To date, the Salango discovery presents the only known evidence of ancient people using juvenile skulls as burial headgear.

The two burial mounds where the skeletons were uncovered date back to about 100 BCE. It's likely that the skull "helmets" were cut and fitted to the infants' heads while the former were "still fleshed," the researchers write. One infant, estimated to be about 18 months old at the time of death, wears the skull of a child between 4 and 12 years old. The “helmet” was positioned so that the wearer looked “through and out of the cranial vault,” the paper reports (the cranial vault is the area of the skull where the brain is stored). The second infant, which was between 6 and 9 months old at death, is fitted with the skull of a child between 2 and 12 years old.

Images of infant skeletons covered with the bones of older children found in Ecuador
© Sara Juengst

But why? The archaeologists involved in the discovery aren’t totally sure. Ash found near the burial site suggests that a volcano may have impeded agriculture, leading to malnourishment and starvation. The skull helmets could have been an effort to offer the infants additional protection beyond the grave. It’s also possible, though unlikely, that the children could have been sacrificed in a ritual to protect the community from natural disasters. That’s less probable, though; none of the bones show any evidence of trauma, but they did show signs of anemia, suggesting that all four children were sick at their time of death. Researchers hope DNA and isotope analyses can offer more information on the discovery.

Whatever the reason is, it’s important not to judge with modern eyes, lead author Sara Juengst told Gizmodo. “Our conception of death is based in our modern medical, religious, and philosophical views,” she said. “We need to think about things in their own context as much as possible and try to keep our own prejudices or ideas about 'right/wrong' out of the analysis.”

[h/t Gizmodo]

Maine Man Catches a Rare Cotton Candy Lobster—For the Second Time

RnDmS/iStock via Getty Images
RnDmS/iStock via Getty Images

Just three months after a cotton candy lobster was caught off the coast of Maine, another Maine resident has reeled in one of the rare, colorful creatures.

Kim Hartley told WMTW that her husband caught the cotton candy lobster off Cape Rosier in Penobscot Bay—and it’s not his first time. Four years ago, he caught another one, which he donated to an aquarium in Connecticut. While the Hartleys decide what to do with their pretty new foster pet, it’s relaxing in a crate on land.

Though the chances of finding a cotton candy lobster are supposedly one in 100 million, Maine seems to be crawling with the polychromatic crustaceans. Lucky the lobster gained quite a cult following on social media after being caught near Canada’s Grand Manan Island (close to the Canada-Maine border) last summer, and Portland restaurant Scales came across one during the same season. You can see a video of the discovery in Maine from last August below:

According to National Geographic, these lobsters’ cotton candy-colored shells could be the result of a genetic mutation, or they could be related to what they’re eating. Lobsters get their usual greenish-blue hue when crustacyanin—a protein they produce—combines with astaxanthin, a bright red carotenoid found in their diet. But if the lobsters aren’t eating their usual astaxanthin-rich fare like crabs and shrimp, the lack of pigment could give them a pastel appearance. It’s possible that the cotton candy lobsters have been relying on fishermen’s bait as their main food source, rather than finding their own.

While these vibrant specimens may look more beautiful than their dull-shelled relatives, even regular lobsters are cooler than you think—find out 25 fascinating facts about them here.

[h/t WMTW]

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