An extinct genus of fish from the early Paleozoic called the Sacabambaspis has recently gone viral on social media in Japan, with memes and even art and merch being made based on it.
Sacabambaspis was a genus of jawless fish that lived in the Ordovician period. Its appearance is described as tadpole-like with an oversized head and frontally positioned eyes that resemble a car’s headlights. It’s said to have lived with its mouth forever open, sucking in scraps of food and, due to its lack of fins, is assumed to have been bad at its main activity as a fish, swimming.
But what made this cryptic fish become an endless source of memes and art among Japanese users?
Sacabambaspis initially became known to the world through a viral tweet from August 2022 shown below, which pokes fun at a poorly executed model of the Sacabambaspis from the Finnish Museum of Natural History. The Sacabambaspis is depicted with bulging eyes, flared nostrils and an uncanny triangular grin, altogether forming an unspeakable expression.
Then, almost a year later, Japanese users rediscovered the Sacabambaspis meme through the previously mentioned tweet, and the wretched fish started doing rounds on social media once again, with the trend #サカバンバスビス (#Sacabambaspis) gaining traction on Twitter. Someone even made a set of Sacabambaspis stickers for the messenger app LINE.
On June 8, a Japanese online journal dedicated to introducing interesting living beings called Epinesis propelled the Sacabambaspis meme even further by publishing an article titled “The pathetic state of this reconstructed model of the Sacabambaspis at the Helsinki Museum of Natural History is going viral.” Their tweet about the fish gained over 346 thousand likes, with people posting their memes and fanart in the quotes.
Users seem to have found cuteness as well as amusement in the botched reconstructed model, as a lot of the fanart depicts the Sacabambaspis as a cute character. There are even Sacabambaspis felt plushies and Sacabambaspis nail art being created.
In fact, the reason why the Japanese public has become so fond of the silly looking Sacabambaspis may be that it gives off a yuru-chara-like energy. Yuru-chara are Japanese mascot characters distinguished by their cute and unsophisticated designs. Among such characters, slighly dumb and uncanny-looking ones have a tendency to become popular due to their meme-potential. Users surely recognized such qualities in the Helsinki Museum’s model, making them want to realize its potential.
This charming tutorial teaches people how to memorize the name Sacabambaspis (pronounced in Japanese as sakabanbasupisu) by using the words saka (slope), ban (van), basu (bus) and pisu (peace).
On June 15, the Among Us official Twitter account joined in on the fun, quoting Epinesis’s tweet with their own Sacabambaspis meme.
The #サカバンバスビス hashtag is full of other hilarious and cute Sacabambaspis memes and art, and more keeps being created by the minute.