Journal archives for February 2020

February 23, 2020

A Mighty Rostrum in New Zealand - Observation of the Week, 2/22/20

Our Observation of the Week is this male New Zealand Giraffe Weevil, seen in New Zealand by @lisa_bennett!

Like Babe Ruth, Lisa Bennett called her shot on February 11th. “Every summer I have been keeping an eye out for [New Zealand giraffe weevils], but so far I hadn’t seen any,” she tells me. “[And] I did mention to my husband in the morning that maybe today would be the day!” 

Imagine my delight when I saw this one on the very tree we were picnicking under! My oldest son happily held it for the photo, and gently put it back on the trunk of the tree afterwards. We also saw many stick insects that day, as well as freshwater crayfish, cicadas, birds and even a gecko skin. I love seeing the fascinated look on their faces when we find things, and I love that they learn to be respectful and gentle, and to return them to their home if they have been handled.

The longest species in the Brentidae, or straight-snouted weevil family, the New Zealand giraffe weevil is highly sexually dimorphic, with adult males reaching up to about 90mm in length and adult females about 50mm in length - the main difference being the exaggerated length of the male’s rostrum. After emerging as adults in the summer, females drill holes in the wood of dead or dying trees, where they will eventually lay a single egg, and “during this time males will compete fiercely for access to females for copulation, using their greatly elongated rostrum and enlarged mandibles to push, bite, pull and grapple other males from the female, occasionally throwing their opponent off the tree.” (Painting and Holwell, 2013) Interestingly, larvae eat fungi which grow in their burrow, not the wood itself.

Lisa says she “was especially animal-obsessed as a kid,” and in addition to nature books she collected nests, shells, and other natural emphera. “My parents didn’t really understand my interest but they encouraged it,” she remembers, “which I’ll always be grateful for, although my father drew the line at pet frogs singing in my bedroom!” A stay-at-home mom, she enjoys introducing her sons to the flora and fauna around their abode. “My eldest son especially enjoys finding ‘species’,” she says. “It blows my mind that we find a species new to us almost every time we go exploring.”

For years Lisa (above, with her sons) has been trying to record the biodiversity of their 13 acre property but says “my spreadsheets weren’t cutting it” and it was difficult to find identification resources. iNaturalist has been a boon in both of those areas, and she tells me “to have such a wonderful way of recording all the data and having such expert knowledge just a click away is amazing!...

I love the way it has made me notice so much more that I ever did before, and I feel when I visit a place now I understand it, biologically at least, much more than I ever did before. I wish it had been around 30 years ago! I’m making up for lost time now though! :)

- by Tony Iwane


- smaller males will sometime sneak in and mate with a female, as this really informative video shows.

- female New Zealand giraffe weevils have much shorter rostra.

- this is not the first giraffe weevil Observation of the Week! Back in 2016, we featured @nlblock’s observation of a giraffe weevil in Madagascar!

Posted on February 23, 2020 05:37 by tiwane tiwane | 16 comments | Leave a comment

February 04, 2020

iNat's First Observation of a Microglossum clavatum earth tongue fungus! - Observation of the Week, 2/3/20

Our Observation of the Week is the first Microglossum clavatum posted to iNaturalist! Seen in Italy by @salvatore_bacciu_paola_mereu!

“We fell in love with Geoglossaceae [earth tongue fungi] last year and we investigated many species that were very little known in Sardinia,” says Salvatore Bacciu, one half of @salvatore_bacciu_paola_mereu, whose main passion is macrofungi. The couple live on the island, “in a beautiful highland in the middle of the Mediterranean basin where nature is still very raw and beautiful,” as he describes it. “We are a couple in love with nature who fight to preserve as much as we can.”

The gorgeous Microglossum clavatum fungus you see photographed above is one of several new species in that genus described in 2017. Not only did Savaltore and Paola find the fungus, they sent samples of it to their mycologist friend Matteo Carbone, who verified their ID with some DNA testing. The genus Microglossum is actually *not* listed under Geoglossaceae on iNaturalist (although they are morphologically similar), but in the family Leotiaceae. Like other members of its family, this fungus is saprotrophic, and is usually found in soil, duff, and moss. 

“When the result came back we were very excited and wanted to share it with the world through this very useful app,” Salvatore (with Paola, above) tells me. “iNaturalist is without a doubt a brilliant tool to share the knowledge of the natural world. Since we started using it, we make the most of it having the opinion of very skilled scientists and amateurs like us.”

- by Tony Iwane. Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and flow.


- Interested in mushrooming and adding your fungus observations to iNat? Check out our Introduction to Mushrooming video for some pointers!

Posted on February 04, 2020 03:42 by tiwane tiwane | 13 comments | Leave a comment

February 17, 2020

iNat User agonzalo Photographs the Birth of a Sloth in Panama - Observation of the Week, 2/16/20

iNat user @agonzalo photographed a Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth giving birth in Panama, and it’s our Observation of the Week!

“The story of the picture of the sloth giving birth is based on applying a basic equation,” explains Aitor Gonzalo. “perseverance plus extreme LUCK!

I didn't see the full delivery. I heard a loud screech that caught my attention and managed to see the sloth at a distance of about 150 meters. Through the camera I could see that the mother was manipulating the newborn but at the moment everything was very confusing for me. In the photos you can understand better what was happening.

While his primary interest is birds, Aitor says “I never miss the chance to photograph sloths, monkeys, and other animals, alone or in company with their babies. Obviously, a birth in nature is to win the lottery.”

Famously slow-moving, three-toed sloths eat leaves and digest them at a sarlacc-like rate, sometimes taking 2 weeks to digest a meal! Sleeping in trees for about 16 hours a day, they make their way to the forest floor only once every 7-8 days in order to defecate, and as you can see they even give birth up in the treetops. Newborn sloths, like the one in Aitor’s photos, gestated for about seven months. It will spend the next five months or so clinging to its mother before it starts to climb on its own in earnest.

Aitor has always been interested in nature, but he credits his two daughters, Milena and Costanza, for his current “real real true passion for nature (I mean me as an already old guy and eager to go out and spend most day taking photographs).” One daughter has a PhD (earned in France) and studies soil microbes, while the other is studying Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning at UC-Davis in California. “Both of my daughters…

are passionate about nature, the environment, and its conservation and have discussed it with so much enthusiasm that it is extremely difficult not to get engaged. Moreover, both have been vegetarians for many years, and to challenge them and myself, I became vegan.

A regular iNat and eBird user, Aitor (above, with @ruthpierson and @claryliz) finds iNaturalist to be “an essential tool. It has everything. It helps you identify animals, it keeps records of everything, you can get statistics, it is interactive and user friendly. Besides, it is fun and challenging.”

- by Tony Iwane. Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and flow.


- Panama is part of the iNaturalist network!

- Sloths do swim - here is a pygmy three-toed sloth making its way across the water to look for a mate.

Posted on February 17, 2020 05:16 by tiwane tiwane | 21 comments | Leave a comment