The Sea Rabbit (Monafluffchus americanus) of Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York – This unique sea-dwelling rabbit, which is actually a close relative of the sea lion, was officially discovered and investigated by Henry Hudson when he first visited this land to colonize the area by order of the Dutch government. It was named New Amsterdam -- today’s New York City. This island was named after he saw the beach covered with strange swimming wild rabbits. The word “Coney Island” means “wild rabbit island” in Dutch (originally Conyne Eylandt, or Konijneneiland in modern Dutch spelling). Sea rabbits were also referred mermaid rabbit, merrabbit, rabbit fish or seal rabbit in the natural history documents in the 17th century. The current conservation status, or risk of extinction, of the sea rabbit is Extinct in the Wild.
This website features two species of sea rabbits, which have been taken care of by Dr. Takeshi Yamada (山田武司) at the Coney Island Sea Rabbit Repopulation Center, which is a part of the Marine biology department of the Coney Island University in Brooklyn, New York. They are – Coney Island Sea Rabbit (Monafluffchus americanus) called “Seara” and Coney Island Tiger-striped Sea Rabbit (Monafluffchus konjinicus) called “Stripes”.
The photographs and videos featured in this website chronicle adventures of the Coney Island sea rabbits and the world as seen by them. This article also documented efforts of Dr. Takeshi Yamada for bringing back the nearly extinct sea rabbits to Coney Island in the City of New York and beyond. Dr. Yamada produced a series of public lectures, workshops, original public live interactive fine art performances and fine art exhibitions about sea rabbits at a variety of occasions and institutions in the City of New York and beyond. Dr. Yamada is an internationally active educator, book author, wildlife conservationist and high profile artist, who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Other Common Names: Coney Island Sea Rabbit, Beach Rabbit, Seal Rabbit, mer-rabbit, merrabbit, Atlantic Sea Rabbit.
Latin Name: Monafluffchus americanus
Origin: Atlantic coast of the United States
Description of the specimen: In the early 17th century’s European fur craze drove the fleet of Dutch ships to the eastern costal area of America. Then Holland was the center of the world just like the Italy was in the previous century. New York City was once called New Amsterdam when Dutch merchants landed and established colonies. Among them, Henry Hudson is probably the most recognized individual in the history of New York City today. “This small island is inhabited by two major creatures which we do not have in our homeland. The one creature is a large arthropod made of three body segments: the frontal segment resembles a horseshoe, the middle segment resembles a spiny crab and its tail resembles a sharp sword. Although they gather beaches here in great numbers, they are not edible due to their extremely offensive odor. Another creature which is abundant here, has the head of wild rabbit. This animal of great swimming ability has frontal legs resemble the webbed feet of a duck. The bottom half of the body resembles that of a seal. This docile rabbit of the sea is easy to catch as it does not fear people. The larger male sea rabbits control harems of 20 to 25 females. The meat of the sea rabbit is very tender and tasty.” This is what Hadson wrote in his personal journal in 1609 about the horseshoe crab and the sea rabbit in today’s Coney Island area of Brooklyn, New York. Sadly, just like the Dodo bird and the Thylacine, the sea rabbit was driven to extinction by the European settlers’ greed. When Dutch merchants and traders arrived here, sea rabbits were one of the first animals they hunted down to bring their furs to homeland to satisfy the fur craze of the time. To increase the shipment volume of furs of sea rabbit and beavers from New Amsterdam, Dutch merchants also started using wampum (beads made of special clam shells) as the first official currency of this country.
At the North Eastern shores of the United States, two species of sea rabbits were commonly found. They are Coney Island Sea Rabbit (Monafluffchus americanus) and Coney Island Tiger-striped Sea Rabbit (Monafluffchus konjinicus). Sadly, due to their over harvesting in the previous centuries, their conservation status became “Extinct in the Wild” (ET) in the Red List Endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Currently, these sea rabbits are only found at breeding centers at selected zoos and universities such as Coney Island Aquarium and Coney Island University in Brooklyn, New York. The one shown in this photograph was named "Seara" and has been cared by Dr. Takeshi Yamada at Coney Island University.
The sea rabbit is one of the families of the Pinniped order. Pinnipeds (from Latin penna = flat and pes/pedis = foot) are sea-mammals: they are homeothermic (i.e having high and regulated inner temperature), lung-breathing (i.e dependant on atmospheric oxygen) animals having come back to semi aquatic life. As soon as they arrive ashore, females are caught by the nearest adult male. Males can maintain harems of about 20 females on average. Several hours to several days after arriving ashore, pregnant females give birth to eight to ten pups with a dark brown fur. As soon as birth occurs, the mother’s special smell and calls help her pups bond specifically to her. The mother stays ashore with her pup for about one week during which the pup gains weight. During the first week spent with her newborn, the mother becomes receptive. She will be impregnated by the bull, which control the harem. Implantation of the embryo will occur 3 months later, in March-April. During the reproductive period, the best males copulate with several tens females. To do so, males have to stay ashore without feeding in order to keep their territory and their harem. In mid-January, when the last females have been fecundated, males leave at sea to feed. Some of them will come back later in March-April for the moult. The other ones will stay at sea and will come back on Coney Island only in next November. After fecundation, the mother goes at sea for her first meal. At sea, mothers feed on clams, crabs, shrimps, fish (herring, anchovy, Pollock, capelin etc.) and squids. When she is back, the mother recovers her pups at the beach she left them. Suckling occurs after auditive and olfactory recognition had occured. In March-April, the dark brown fur is totally replaced by an adult-like light brownish grey fur during the moult that lasts 1-2 months. This new fur is composed by 2 layers. Externally, the guard fur is composed by flat hairs that recover themselves when wet. By doing so, they make a water-proof barrier for the under fur. The underfur retains air when the seal is dry. Because of isolating properties of the air, the underfur is the insulating system of the fur. In March-April, the fur of adults is partially replaced. First reproduction occurs at 1-yr old in females. Males are physiologically matures at 1 year old but socially matures at +2 years old.
NOTE: The name of Coney Island is commonly thought to be derived from the Dutch Konijn Eylandt or Rabbit Island as apparently the 17th century European settlers noted many rabbits running amuck on the island.
About Dr. Takeshi Yamada:
Educator, medical assistant, author and artist Takeshi Yamada was born and raised at a traditional and respectable house of samurai in Osaka, Japan in 1960. He studied art at Nakanoshima College of Art in Osaka, Japan. As an international exchange student of Osaka Art University, he moved to the United States in 1983 and studied art at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, CA and Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD in 1983-85, and completed his Bachelor of Fine Art degree in 1985.
Yamada obtained his Master of Fine Art Degree in 1987 at the University of Michigan, School of Art in Ann Arbor, MI. Yamada’s “Visual Anthropology Artworks” reflects unique, distinctive and often quickly disappearing culture around him. In 1987, Yamada moved to Chicago, and by 1990, Yamada successfully fused Eastern and Western visual culture and variety of cross-cultural mythology in urban allegories, and he became a major figure of the River North (“SUHU” district) art scene. During that time he also developed a provocative media persona and established his unique style of super-realism paintings furnishing ghostly images of people and optically enhanced pictorial structures. By 1990, his artworks were widely exhibited internationally. In 2000, Yamada moved to New York City.
Today, he is highly media-featured and internationally famed for his “rogue taxidermy” sculptures and large-scale installations, which he calls “specimens” rather than “artworks”. He also calls himself “super artist” and “gate keeper” rather than the “(self-expressing) artist“. His passion for Cabinet of Curiosities started when he was in kindergarten, collecting natural specimens and built his own Wunderkammer (German word to express “Cabinet of Curiosities“). At age eight, he started creating “rogue taxidermy monsters” such as two-headed lizards, by assembling different parts of animal carcasses.
Internationally, Yamada had over 600 major fine art exhibitions including 50 solo exhibitions including Spain, The Netherlands, Japan, Canada, Columbia, and the United States. Yamada also taught classes and made public speeches at over 40 educational institutions including American Museum of Natural History, Louisiana State Museum, Laurenand Rogers Museum of Art, International Museum of Surgical Science, University of Minnesota, Montana State University, Eastern Oregon University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Mount Vernon Nazarene College, Salem State College, Osaka College of Arts, Chemeketa Community College, Maryland Institute College of Art, etc. Yamada’s artworks are collection of over 30 museums and universities in addition to hundreds of corporate/private art collectors internationally. Yamada and his artworks were featured in over 400 video websites. In addition, rogue taxidermy artworks, sideshow gaffs, cryptozoological artworks, large sideshow banners and showfronts created by Yamada in the last 40 years have been exhibited at over 100 of state fairs and festivals annually nationwide, up to and including the present.
Yamada won numerous prestigious awards and honors i.e., “International Man of the Year”, “Outstanding Artists and Designers of the 20th Century”, “2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century”, “International Educator of the Year”, “One Thousand Great Americans”, “Outstanding People of the 20th Century”, “21st Century Award for Achievement”, “Who’s Who in America” and “Who’s Who in The World”. The Mayors of New Orleans, Louisiana and Gary, Indiana awarded him the “Key to the City”. Yamada’s artworks are collections of many museums and universities/colleges i.e., Louisiana State Museum, New Orleans Museum of Art, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Chicago Athenaeum Museum, Eastern Oregon University, Montana State University and Ohio State University.
Yamada was profiled in numerous TV programs in the United States, Japan and Philippine, Columbia, i.e., A&E History Channel, Brooklyn Cable Access Television, “Chicago’s Very Own” in Chicago, “Takeshi Yamada’s Divine Comedy” in New Orleans, and Chicago Public Television’s Channel ID. Yamada also published 22 books based on his each major fine art projects i.e., “Homage to the Horseshoe Crab”, Medical Journal of the Artist”, “Graphic Works 1996-1999”, “Phantom City”, “Divine Comedy”, “Miniatures”, “Louisville”, “Visual Anthropology 2000”, “Heaven and Hell”, “Citizen Kings” and “Dukes and Saints” in the United States. In prints, Yamada and his artworks have been featured in numerous books, magazine and newspapers internationally i.e., The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time out New York (full page color interview), Washington Times, The Fine Art Index, New American Paintings, Village Voice 9full page interview), Chicago Art Scene (front cover), Chicago Tribune Magazine (major color article), Chicago Japanese American News, Strong Coffee, Reader, Milwaukee Journal, Clarion, Kaleidoscope, Laurel Leader-Call, The Advertiser News, Times-Picayune (front page, major color articles), Michigan Alumnus (major color article), Michigan Today (major color article), Mardi Gras Guide (major color article), The Ann Arbor News (front covers), Park Slope Courier (color pages), 24/7 (color pages), Brooklyn Free Press (front cover) and The World Tribune.
(updated November 24, 2012)
Reference (videos featuring sea rabbits and Dr. Takeshi Yamada):
Reference (sea rabbit artifacts)
Reference (newspaper articles and reviews):
Reference (fine art websites):
Reference (other videos):
(updated November 24, 2012)
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- ADVENTURES OF THE SEA RABBITS, PART 13 (2012)
- July 2012