Journal archives for August 2019

August 21, 2019

A Sea Slug Mating Ball in The Philippines - Observation of the Week, 8/20/19

Our Observation of the Week is this group of Hypseldoris iba nudibranchs, seen in The Philippines by @notdunroamin!

“In 2013, my husband and I decided to sell everything and travel,” explains Danila Mansfield, who goes by notdunroamin on iNaturalist. “We joined a number of citizen science projects, in Belize, South Africa and Timor-Leste, and very much enjoyed observing and assisting in conservation efforts.”

While she was always interested in nature, Danila says “my husband Chris, with his much deeper interest, really sparked more in me. We've taken several holidays focussed on nature and wildlife in a variety of places, and since we started scuba diving in 1996, our nature interests have become very marine focussed.” She recently took part in an underwater photography class in The Philippines, which is where she came across the nudibranchs you see above. But it didn’t start out that way.

“On one of my early dives during the course, I was observing and photographing a single Hypseldoris...adjusting my position and my strobe, and then I became aware that a second Hypseldoris was trundling along towards number 1,” recalls Danila.

When number 2 joined number 1, I took a few shots, then spotted number 3 beginning to gain ground. 1 and 2 were on a rock a few inches higher, and 3 had to climb up the rock face to join them. Then I literally fell about laughing, as I spotted number 4 gathering speed behind 3, and 4 actually barged past 3 and climbed up the rock to join 1 and 2, before 3 had made it! Finally 3 joined in, and there's the nudi party! By this point 2 or 3 other divers had joined me to see what I was so closely watching, so we shameless voyeurs continued to watch and enjoy the party! [See video slideshow here]

As I started looking into the natural history of this slug, I found out that it was described just last year by the California Academy of Science’s (CAS) own @tgosliner and @rebeccafay (among others). I reached out to Dr. Gosliner about the observation and this genus and, after adding his ID to the observation ("[H. iba] have a higher body profile and a more rounded hind end of the body than in H. variobranchia.”), he told me

The Hypselodoris group has a remarkable diversity of species and we have found that closely related species have similar but distinct color patterns. These are often cases of Mullerian mimicry where distasteful species often adopt a similar color pattern…

Often times mating individuals exude chemicals (pheromones) that attract other individuals and you will often see a mating aggregation like this. It is thought that if conditions are favorable for two individuals to decide to mate that it will be good for others in the area to also begin mating.

And according to CAS’s press release, two different looking individuals of this particular species were observed mating, and were originally thought to have been different species before genetic work was used to determine they were in fact, of the same species.

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“I've only just become aware of iNaturalist, through a friend in a Marine Creatures group on Facebook,” says Danila (above). “I'm looking forward to checking out the observations, and trying to ID my own underwater photos.”

Posted on August 21, 2019 04:08 by tiwane tiwane | 4 comments | Leave a comment

August 11, 2019

Lithuania - iNaturalist World Tour

We end Week 7 of the iNaturalist World Tour in Lithuania. Much of the activity of the top observers is centered around the capital city of Vilnius in the southeast (@jurga_li @almantas @arunasjuknevicius @itzhak46 @siju @dominykabreimelyt @tadas_gruzinskas @gediminas). @solokultas has many observations along the Baltic Sea coast in the west while @ausrazilinskiene is focused on the area around Marijampolė. @tomasp has observations all over Lithuania and is working to translate the app into Lithuanian on CrowdIn. Thanks, @tomasp!

In general, activity peaks are in the spring and summer months. It looks like @eglemarija was responsible for some iNaturalist outreach starting in 2016 by creating some projects. Have there been any particularly successful events or outreach that contributed to any of those spikes?

There's strong overlap between the top identifiers in Lithuania and the top observers, with additional expertise coming from elsewhere in Europe. For example, @almantas is top for plants, fungi, molluscs, and other animals (closely followed by @jurga_li for fungi, who is a lichen specialist), while @ldacosta is on the top again for birds, mammals, and fish. @borisb is tops for insects, like elsewhere in Europe. @laukines_pievos, @kastani, and @leschij have made many identifications overall. @dutisdu has focused on arachnids and @tom-kirschey-nabu on reptiles and amphibians.

We saw in the forum that @tomasp would like to get Lithuanian common names imported in addition to the mobile app translation. What else can we do to get more people in Lithuania using iNaturalist? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread.

@kamanes @entomologe @arthur_nature_guide @bernadetak @tadasblinda @juhakinnunen @kristinavalinciene

We’ll be back tomorrow with Luxembourg!

Posted on August 11, 2019 16:57 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 4 comments | Leave a comment

August 14, 2019

Namibia - iNaturalist World Tour

We're in Namibia for the 52nd stop on the iNaturalist World Tour where we've arrived from nearby Botswana. The top observer here is @alexdreyer based out of the arid Maltahöhe district of Namibia south of Windhoek. The locations of people on the map below (which represents the centroid of their observations within a bounding box around Namibia) is a bit misleading here since people covered so much ground. For example, @martin_weigand activity is centered west of Windhoek but his observations are actually distributed up and down the Western half of Namibia. @peter_erb and @wolfachim's observations are in a grand arc from the Caprivi, through Etosha National Park and south to Windhoek. @jurga_li's observations range from Etosha National Park in the north down to the southern tip of the country. You can get a sense for what Etosha has to offer from this Observation of the Week post featuring a waterhole sighting by @jerrythornton. Etosha is relatively arid but is still a woodland ecosystem typical of much of the African savannah. In contrast, this Observation of the Week post about a @Peringuey’s Adder sighting by @robert_taylor gives a sense for the more arid parts of the country among the dunes not far from Walvis Bay.

The number of observations per month has been ticking up since 2017 roughly following whats happening in Botswana. I suspect the drivers are also similar which I speculated about in the Botswana post yesterday. Like in Botswana, the Southern African community that moved to iNat from iSpot a few years ago appears to be the source of most of the activity from Namibia.

@alexdreyer holds both the top observer and top identifer positions, he also leads in half of the categories including plants and insects. @alanhorstmann is the second top identifier and leads in birds and mammals. Thanks to other top identifiers in Namibia such as @tonyrebelo, @colin25, @martin_weigand, @wynand_uys, and @johnnybirder!

What can we do to get more people using iNaturalist in Namibia? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

@alexdreyer @martin_weigand @peter_erb @wolfachim @jurga_li @colin25 @happyasacupcake @alanhorstmann @tonyrebelo @johnnybirder

We’ll be back tomorrow in Honduras!

Posted on August 14, 2019 20:24 by loarie loarie | 1 comment | Leave a comment

August 12, 2019

Luxembourg - iNaturalist World Tour

Today, we start Week 8 of the iNaturalist World Tour. This week will take us to Luxembourg
Botswana and Namibia in Southern Africa, Honduras and Puerto Rico* in the Neotropics, Turkey which straddles the boundary between Europe and Asia, and Sri Lanka in Asia.

Let's kick off the week by celebrating our 50th stop in the tiny country of Luxembourg. Most of the top observers are in the southern part of Luxembourg, especially around the capital city of Luxembourg. @paul_luap and @cecellina both have many observations around the capital and north, @carlobraunert is most active in the east, and @raedwulf68 in the south. The full observation map shows observations impressively distributed throughout the entire country.

There was very little activity in Luxembourg until a typical northern hemisphere seasonal pattern emerged in 2018. 2019 saw a dramatic spike from Luxembourg's participation in the City Nature Challenge in April, organized by @paul_luap and @taniaw. It seems to have sparked a sustained higher level of participation in the months following, thanks in part to new contributors who joined around that time like entomologist @claudekolwelter @nobara and nature guide @guyw. @paul_luap is also behind the Neobiota Luxembourg project to detect and respond to newly invasive species for the National Museum of Natural History Luxembourg.

Plants and insects are the most observed taxa. For identifications, @thierryh and @paul_luap are nearly tied for plants. @ldacosta leads again for birds, mammals, and fish. Beetle expert @vitalfranz has contributed the most insect identifications, followed by @svenjachristian who leads for arachnids and other invertebrates. @alexwei leads for molluscs and @tom-kirschey-nabu for herps.

It looks like many users are associated with the National Museum of Natural History, are professionals or experienced and/or dedicated amateur naturalists, which is promising for a sustained active community in Luxembourg. What can we do to get more people in Luxembourg using iNaturalist? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread.

@wollef @guypopbio @jasonrgrant @marikoll @ktlux @amzamz @bobwardell @seladoneule @georges3 @dengel1967

We’ll be back tomorrow with Botswana!

*Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, but we're covering it separately as part of the World Tour because it has its own ISO 3166 code. As we proceed especially to more of the smaller islands, we'll encounter this situation again where outlying territories are highlighted separately from their associated country.

Posted on August 12, 2019 16:23 by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 2 comments | Leave a comment

August 13, 2019

Botswana - iNaturalist World Tour

We're in Botswana for the 51st stop on the iNaturalist World Tour - part of a Southern Africa duo (we'll be in Namibia tomorrow). The top observer is @botswanabugs based on the Eastern side of Botswana near the second top observer @tuli, a retired botanist and insect enthusiast. @robert_taylor, an ecologist based in northern Botswana, has activity centered near the Okavango Delta region along with @ricky_taylor, @joachim, and @dewald2. @muir, now based in Alaska, did research in the Kalahari in a previous life where his Botswana observations are centered. There is a cluster of top observers in the 4-corners area (@craigpeter, @echo-lawrence, @supergan). The 4-corners area is where Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe meet and is gateway to some iconic parks like Chobe National Park and sights like Victoria Falls.

The number of observations per month jumped towards the end of 2017. This coincides with when the Southern Africa community formerly on iSpot joined iNaturalist as described here. But its a bit odd because migrated observations from iSpot had their original iSpot creation dates preserved, so its unclear exactly why the rate of newly created observations jumped up here. There have been some home grown activity in Botswana such as this Okavanga Fishes project orchestrated by @tshepibotumile thanks to short lived funding by JRS and the heroic volunteer efforts of @robert_taylor. You can read more about @robert_taylor in this Observation of the Week post about a sighting of his from Namibia.

Most of the top identifiers joined iNaturalist with the arrival of the Southern Africa community described above including @alanhorstmann who is the top identifiers overall and leads in leads Botswana bird IDs in addition to having expertise in southern African plants. @colin25 is the second top identifier and leads fungi, @beetledude leads insects, @wynand_uys leads in arachnids and fish, and @alexdreyer leads in plants. This move was orchestrated by @tonyrebelo, an ecologist at SANBI and also a top identifier in Botswana. Other top identifiers in Botswana predate the arrival of this community including @jakob who's been a dominant force in the African community on iNaturalist since its early days and @johnnybirder an ecologist originally from South Africa now based in the US. Many thanks to other top identifiers such as @calebcam and @ldacosta.

What can we do to get more people using iNaturalist in Botswana? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

@botswanabugs @tuli @robert_taylor @joachim @dewald2 @alanhorstmann @colin25 @johnnybirder @jakob @tonyrebelo

We’ll be back tomorrow in nearby Namibia!

Posted on August 13, 2019 18:44 by loarie loarie | 11 comments | Leave a comment

August 16, 2019

Honduras - iNaturalist World Tour

We're in Honduras for the 53rd stop on the iNaturalist World Tour - and apologies for the delay posting this, we were tied up celebrating 25 million observations today. The top observer is @oliverkomar, a professor at Zamorano University which is located not far from the capital of Tegucigalpa (other top observers like @danielnavarro1 are also based near here). @denilsonoz's observations are clustered in the region around Lake Yojoa which is a large lake between the cities of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. @anniebeez and @tomdriscoll's observations are also clustered here. @ericvandenberghe's Honduran observations are scattered throughout the country but there's a large concentration on the island of Utila off the north coast of the country. @neild's observations are also clustered on this island. @hermes is a botanist with observations centered in western Honduras in the region around Celaque National Park. @djm has observations clustered in several regions around the country. @alexanderr's observations are clustered in the mountains to the west of San Pedro Sula. Don't miss this Zombie Ant Fungus observation seen by @jonathan_kolby in Cusuco National Park near here that we featured in an Observation of the Week post.

The number of observations per month in Honduras has been ramping up since 2018. Its unclear what accounts for the peak in October, 2018 - or maybe this can be interpreted as a dip during the Christmas season? @oliverkomar's outreach to students through projects like Jardín Botánico de la EAP Zamorano have surely contributed to this growth.

The mysterious @norman-espinoza is the top identifier overall from Honduras (and the top identifier of birds). Top observer @oliverkomar is the second top identifier and leads in 5 of the categories (insects, plants, reptiles, arachnids, and fungi). @maractwin is the top fish identifier and has contributed many identifications to observations made by scuba divers around the Honduran islands. Many thanks to top idenfifiers @derick327 and @denilsonoz for contributing their local expertise, and thanks to all the other top identifiers from Honduras!

Relative to Mexico to the north and Costa Rica to the south, Honduras and its immediate neighbors often look like 'dark spots' on maps of biodiversity occurrence records. This makes observations from this relatively poorly studied country all the more important. What can we do to get more people using iNaturalist and generating biodiversity records in Honduras? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

@oliverkomar @denilsonoz @ericvandenberghe @hermes @djm @anniebeez @danielnavarro1 @norman-espinoza @derick327 @maractwin

We’ll be back tomorrow in nearby Puerto Rico!

Posted on August 16, 2019 03:10 by loarie loarie | 7 comments | Leave a comment

August 28, 2019

A Centipede Down the Gullet - Observation of the Week, 8/27/19

Our Observation of the Week is this Brown-hooded Kingfisher, seen in South Africa by @magdastlucia!

Originally from the South African city of Pretoria, Magda moved to the Zululand area about thirteen years ago, and resides in St. Lucia, by the coast. “My holidays were usually short break-aways, hiking or camping with friends or family,” says Magda, “[and] there was always a crate in the car with field guides.” A member of iSpot and now iNaturalist, and a contributor of nearly twelve thousand observations, Magda says “I have no scientific background and do not even call myself a citizen scientist. I am just a nature nut that spend as much of my free time I can exploring God's creation.”

The photos you see throughout this post were taken by Magda a few weeks ago, on a trip with some friends up to the Kosi Bay area of South Africa. After exploring Tembe Elephant Park and the Kosi lakes, the group kicked back and did some birding from the deck of their accommodations, where they watched the Brown-hooded Kingfisher enjoying a centipede breakfast. “The bird slammed the centipede against the perch, before it was swallowed,” recalls Magda. “After the centipede disappeared down the bird's throat, it turned around and started scanning for more titbits.”

While kingfishers are best known for perching over lakes and streams and diving for ichthyish prey, many species hunt for terrestrial prey in a similar fashion, including the Brown-hooded kingfisher. They feed mainly on arthropods, but will also take lizards and snakes. As Magda described, a kingfisher usually beats its prey against its perch. This is done in order to stun or kill it, and break dangerous spines or other protrusions before the prey is swallowed. 

And beating a centipede before popping it down the hatch is probably a good idea. Centipedes are voracious predators, and they use their modified front legs (called “forcipules”) to inject their prey with venom. The kingfisher would definitely not want to be stung by the centipede while trying to ingest it. 

Magda, who is also in the St. Lucia Birding Club and the LepSoc’s Caterpillar Rearing Group, says “It is great to be part of a platform where I can share what I see, get it identified, and to top it all, contribute to science.”

- by Tony Iwane

- Kingfishers do not mess around when subduing their prey.

- Copying the shape of a kingfisher’s bill, Japanese Shinkasen trains no longer create a “tunnel boom” when entering a tunnel. 

- Yes, Virginia, there is centipede that catches and eats bats.

Posted on August 28, 2019 03:37 by tiwane tiwane | 7 comments | Leave a comment

August 17, 2019

Turkey - iNaturalist World Tour

We're in Turkey for the 55th stop on the iNaturalist World Tour. Here, the top two observers, @trcarlisle and @a_emmerson have observations centered along the southwest coast of Turkey. A cluster of top observers such as @sabi and @mark027 have observations centered near the coastal Lake Köyceğiz in the province of Muğla. There is a cluster of top observers such as @selini and @theturkologist with observations centered near the most populous city of Istanbul. Another cluster of observers is clustered near the capital of Ankara (e.g. @bsener and @nermin). @ieakinci's observations are centered near the city of Kahramanmaraş and @merav's to the west of Istanbul.

The number of observations per month in Turkey ramped up in 2018 and again in 2019.

@sammyboy2059 is the top identifier overall and for birds and mammals. @kastani, the second top identifier, leads in plants and arachnids. @ozgebalkiz leads in insects. Thanks to all the other top identifiers such as @sabi, @odtudedoga, and @tubacan.

What can we do to get more people using iNaturalist in Turkey? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

@trcarlisle @a_emmerson @sabi @selini @merav @ieakinci @sammyboy2059 @kastani @odtudedoga @tubacan

We’ll be back tomorrow in Sri Lanka!

Posted on August 17, 2019 23:18 by loarie loarie | 8 comments | Leave a comment

August 18, 2019

Sri Lanka - iNaturalist World Tour

It feels like Week 8 of the iNaturalist World Tour flew by. We end it in Sri Lanka! The top observer, @nuwan is a research associate and wildlife guard in Sri Lanka with observations across much of the country. Many of the top observers, such as @ahospers, @denis_m, @nickbelliveau, and @kinmatsu are visitors from elsewhere. Other top observers like are from Sri Lanka such as @shanelle97 who is currently studying at the University of Washington in the US. @amila_sumanapala, a PhD student at University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, is researching Odonata. You can read more about @amila_sumanapala in this Observation of the Week post about a spider he observed in Malaysia. @chathuri_jayatissa is a zoololgy student and @sanjaya_kanishka runs the Snakes of Sri Lanka database. Don't miss this Observation of the Week post about a jungle cat seen by @markuslilje in Sri Lanka’s Uda Walawe National Park located towards the southern end of the country (where @kinmatsu, @chartuso and others' observations are clustered).

The observations per month graph from Sri Lanka is bit distorted by the short term impact of students from University of Peradeniya's participation in an April 2019 event through the QuestaGame platform (which used to repost observations here for identification by the iNaturalist community). This temporarily increased the number of observations per month by about an order of magnitude, but doesn't reflect any actual growth in the iNaturalist community from Sri Lanka.

The top identifier overall and for birds is @sethmiller who is based in Bangladesh. @rajibmaulick and @aniruddha_singhamahapatra are two top identifiers based in India. @elaphrornis, who is based in New York but originally from Sri Lanka, leads insect identifications. @nuwan is a top identifier in addition to being a top observer and leads plant identifications. @amila_sumanapala is another top identifier and top observer. Thanks to everyone else identifying observations from Sri Lanka!

What can we do to get more people using iNaturalist in Sri Lanka? Please share your thoughts below or on this forum thread

@nuwan @ahospers @denis_m @nickbelliveau @kinmatsu @sethmiller @rajibmaulick @elaphrornis @aniruddha_singhamahapatra @amila_sumanapala

We’ll be back tomorrow in Algeria!

Posted on August 18, 2019 21:53 by loarie loarie | 6 comments | Leave a comment

August 15, 2019

25,000,000 Observations!

Today we've reached 25 million verifiable observations! Here's a time lapse video that shows when and where these observations were created going all the way back to launch in 2008. You can follow along with the total observation count as it grows.

At the end of 2018, when we reached 15 million observations, we wrote a blog post where we visualized what these observations would look like if each dot represented 100,000 observations. We've updated those figures below. We now have 250 dots: each row represents 1 million observations and each little block represents 5 million. The unfilled dots represent the 100 new dots since the last analysis.

iNaturalist observations now represent over 230,000 distinct species! That's 40,000 more than last time which, for perspective, is approximately the combined number of all bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species. We now have nearly 10 million plant observations and 6 million insect observations. We've passed 1 million fungi observations since our last analysis.

iNaturalist continues to have a strong North American bias, but we now have 2.5 million observations from Europe, nearly 1.5 million observations from Asia, and over 1 million observations added to Oceania, Africa and South America since our last analysis.

We ended up adding just shy of 8 million observations in 2018. As of today we've added nearly 10 million observations in 2019 and are on track to add another 6 million or so by the end of the year.

The core stats we show on the explore page are the number of observations, the number of species that these observations represent, the number of observers, and the number of identifiers. The graphs below show how these 4 stats have increased over time.

It is noteworthy that the number of species has also continued to increase rapidly. The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) recently wrote a blog post about citizen science contributions to the GBIF archive. Their analysis shows that while there are other citizen science efforts that are generating more observations for a group of taxa (e.g. eBird for birds) or for a particular place (e.g. Artportalen for Sweden), iNaturalist stands out as the only global citizen science contributor that is generating observations of hundreds of thousands of species.

We're accumulating new species more and more rapidly - currently around 5,000 new species a month. But this growing rate is driven by the growth of new observations. It's actually getting harder to observe new species. Currently, about 1 in 400 observations represents a new species, but this rate is dropping over time. It will be interesting to see how iNaturalist continues to accumulate new species as they get rarer and rarer!

These 25 million records have a broad reach. iNaturalist data via GBIF has been cited over 340 times, which is just a fraction of the over 2,000 times iNaturalist is mentioned or cited in publications.

Thanks to every single person who helped us reach this 25 million milestone! And thanks to everyone who has donated to help us continue to improve the platform.

Posted on August 15, 2019 21:08 by loarie loarie | 62 comments | Leave a comment