Miracle of the Earth: The Brilliance of Fireflies (Jám)

Today I am showcasing a very interesting set. It has been a ‘Holy Grail’ set for a while and I recently completed it. The figures in this set are probably worthy of individual reviews, but since it is such a rare and unusual set, and it is unlikely anyone else would have these figures to review (among our regulars), I thought I would show the whole set at once. The collection is called Miracle of the Earth: The Brilliance of Fireflies, and was produced by a company called Jám in 2005. I have a challenge trying to find out anything about this set or the company. The set was also has a copyright for ‘N. Ohba’ which must refer to the famous Japanese firefly biologist Nobuyoshi Ohba. My guess is the the figures were produced for a specific museum and/or event. Anyway, the set include five miniature dioramas, each which features a Japanese firefly species. I must admit, I have also had a challenge learning anything about some of the included species; they tend to have restricted distributions and are not well known outside of local specialists. Four of the species are, to the best of my knowledge, unique in figure form!

Each base to the diorama is 7.0 cm across its longest points, on average. The fireflies themselves are 2.0-2.5 cm on average. They are displayed on a habitat-style base. Each figure also comes with a card with Japanese text telling about the critter and a graph of their flash patterns. The insects are not removable from their bases, and in some cases, the legs are part of whatever substrate the animal is sitting on, and not the insect itself.

The rest of this review will feature as much as I can muster up for a given species, plus a few pictures of each diorama. This will be an image-heavy post, but I hope it will be worth it :-).

A. Rhagophthalmus ohbai
In the set, this figure represents the sole representative of the family Rhagophthalmidae; the others are ‘true’ fireflies in the family Lampyridae. As the species epithet suggests, this species was named after the aforementioned Dr. Ohba. Rhagophthalmus ohbai is endemic to several Japanese islands, including Ishigaki, Iriomote, and Kohama. It is a soil inhabitant. Like several bioluminescent cantharoid beetles, this species has marked sexual dimorphism, with a typical beetle-like adult male, but a larviform adult female. The diorama pictured here is the only one in the set that features both genders. The female’s terminal abdominal segments are raised, showing her light organ to attract her mate, who sits ready for action on a nearby leaf.

B. Luciola owadai
Luciola owadai is endemic to Kumejima Island in the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. The figure in the diorama is perched atop a rock near a body of water. The connection to water is an important feature to highlight, as L. owadai, like several members of the genus, have aquatic larvae. As such, adults are typically found in riparian habitats near water. While the larvae are aquatic, they cannot swim. Instead they crawl over submerged substrates looking for prey.

C. Pyrocoelia fumosa
The third figure in the set is Pyrocoelia fumosa, which lives on Honshu (the main island of Japan). I have had trouble tracking down much on this species, but others in the genus are snail predators. Members of this genus inhabit areas rich in vegetation, and the figure depicted here sits atop a young plant. Notice the two white marks on the prothorax near the head. Those are not light-producing organs, but rather they represent clear areas in the thorax so the beetle can see above itself through the thorax (not unlike barreleye fish). This is probably so they can see the flash patters of a potential mate hanging out in vegetation above them.

D. Luciola cruciata
Commonly known as the Gengi, or Japanese, firefly, this is probably the one species in the set that will be familiar to the toy animal community, as it has been made twice previously by Kaiyodo (Choco Q Animatales and Natural Monuments of Japan, the latter of which has been reviewed on the blog here) and also by Kitan Club. This species is widely distributed in Japan on the islands of Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Tsushima. Like L. owadai we saw earlier in this post, this species has aquatic larvae and as such is found in riparian habitats. This is highlighted in this diorama, with the beetle sitting on a rock on the edge of a body of water.

E. Luciola filiformis yayeyamana
This figure was marketed as L. yayeyamana, which is now considered a subspecies of L. filiformis. This one I have had the most trouble tracking down much information on. It is endemic to the islands of Ishigaki and Iriomote. This might be my favorite figure as far as the diorama presentation goes, with the beetle sitting atop a cut tree stump. Because the artist did not put water into the diorama, I wonder if this species has terrestrial larvae?

Well, that is it. Hope you enjoyed this semi-exhaustive review of Japanese fireflies :-). Until next time!

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