Coverage of the lanternfly genus Pyrops on iNaturalist

Lanternflies, and the genus Pyrops in particular, are in my opinion among the most interesting and charismatic of insects. Large and colorful with bizarre long "snouts", about 67 species are currently recognized. At the end of 2018, 20 of those species were represented on iNat. Almost one year later, iNat now has observations for 29 species, just over 40% of the described diversity, adding 3 species from continental Asia, 3 more from Borneo, 2 from the Philippines and 1 from Sulawesi, bringing the total number of Pyrops observations to over 800.

The most commonly observed Pyrops on iNaturalist is P. candelaria, and for a few reasons. This is easily the most widespread member of the genus, found throughout continental southeast Asia, and it is also the most common member of the genus in a region that has a very large iNat presence: Hong Kong. About 80% of the over 500 observations of Pyrops candelaria are centered around Hong Kong; in contrast, many other Pyrops species are restricted to much more remote regions. Despite being widespread and commonly encountered, as well as being the first Pyrops ever described back in the mid-1700s, there is no common name for this species.


Pyrops candelaria. Sterling Sheehy, some rights reserved (CC-BY)

The second most commonly observed Pyrops on iNaturalist is P. watanabei, but unlike P. candelaria this is not a particularly widespread species. But similar to P. candelaria, this species benefits from being the most common species in a very populous place, in this case Taiwan. Only three species of Pyrops are known from Taiwan, and the country has records of two of the three on iNat. While P. candelaria is found here as well, it is not nearly as dominant as it is in Hong Kong or other parts of continental southeast Asia.


Pyrops watanabei, © 羅忠良, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

While Pyrops is well represented in continental southeast Asia, the majority of species are insular endemics, restricted to just one or more islands of Indonesia, Malaysia, or the Philippines. Among the most well-traveled of these locations is the island of Borneo, which boasts 12 species of Pyrops and fills out the top five of the most observed species on iNat. Borneo has a very unique fauna, and over half of the lanternflies found there are endemic to the island. The Pyrops fauna of Borneo is very well documented on iNat, thanks in large part to the contributions of Chien Lee ( @cclborneo ) and over 70 other observers. Only two species have yet to be observed on iNat from the region. For anyone interested in learning more about the fauna, I recommend the book "A Guide to the Lanternflies of Borneo" by Bosuang et al (2017), which features beautiful photography from @cclborneo and others, or check out all of the observations of Pyrops from Borneo on iNat..


Most commonly observed Pyrops of Borneo. From left to right: Pyrops sultanus, © budak, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC). Pyrops whiteheadi, © Leonid, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC). Pyrops intricatus, © Kinmatsu Lin, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC).

So far, having looked at Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Borneo, we've accounted for 640 of the 827 Pyrops observations on iNaturalist. If we extend the region to also include all of continental Asia as well, then 817 observations are represented covering 24 total species. From continental Asia, iNat is currently missing observations of P. astarte, P. atroalbus, P. itoi, P. jianfenglingensis, P. peguensis, and P. shiinaorum, and from Borneo iNat only needs P. ochracea and P. synavei. In total, iNat has 24 out of 32 species (75%) from the region including continental Asia plus Borneo. Pretty good!


Misc. lanternflies of continental Asia. From left to right: Pyrops viridirostris, © Dr. Vijay Anand Ismavel MS MCh, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC-SA). Pyrops maculatus ssp. delessertii, © Sahana M, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC). Pyrops spinolae, © budak, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC).

But continental Asia plus Borneo only contains less than half of the described Pyrops diversity, and only ten total observations (~1.2%) on iNat fall outside of this region. The Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java are home to 12 endemic species, but iNat only has 7 total observations from this region representing two species total. Across all observations of all species (not just Pyrops), Sumatra only has about 6000 total observations from about 350 observers; compare that to Borneo, which has about 28000 total observations from 1400 observers total.


Lanterflies of Sumatra. From left to right: Pyrops ruehli, © Pasha Kirillov, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC-SA). Pyrops pythicus, © Oscar Johnson, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC-ND).

The island of Sulawesi has an even smaller presence on iNat, with only about 260 total observers. Six endemic Pyrops are found here, but only one singular observation of the genus has ever been made on iNat.


Pyrops valerian, Sulawesi, © imanakbar, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

The final region to consider, with a very high degree of endemism, is the Philippines, where thirteen Pyrops species are known. In contrast to Sumatra and Sulawesi, the Philippines actually has a fairly decent iNat presence, with more total observations and users than Borneo. Despite this, only two Pyrops observations have ever been made here, representing two species (both having been observed in the past 3 months). The lack of Pyrops observations from the Philippines despite the country's high population could be the result of very narrow species distributions, with some species being restricted to particular islands or regions which are not highly populated. Additionally, much of the iNat activity from the Philippines is from marine habitats, and insects are not as commonly observed as they are in Borneo, for example. However, as iNat continues to grow in the Philippines I would expect the representation of lanternflies to grow as well.


Pyrops polillensis, © tiluchi, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

It is wonderful to see more and more of these odd bugs represented on iNaturalist. In the years to come I hope we can see even more species represented, including some of the rare endemics from less documented regions. In the meantime, if you're interested in lanternflies I would definitely suggest checking out what iNaturalist currently has to offer here.

Posted by psyllidhipster psyllidhipster, November 04, 2019 13:28

Comments

Beautiful post!

Posted by mokennon almost 2 years ago (Flag)

I seriously love these journal entries, Chris. :)

Posted by sambiology almost 2 years ago (Flag)

Thanks! There are so many fantastic bugs out there, maybe someday I'll be able to experience them in person

Posted by psyllidhipster almost 2 years ago (Flag)

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