Gecko ID Discussion on iNaturalist Leads to Collaboration and Publication

Because iNaturalist is a global community, we see how naturalists and biologists from around the world have made connections through sharing and discussing observations (sometimes passionately!). Here’s a cool story of how two herpetologists, one in Australia and the other in Colombia, met via iNaturalist and collaborated on a paper together.

It started here:

Yingyod Lapwong (@charliev) disagreed with Juan Daniel Vásquez-Restrepo’s (@juanda037) identification of a Hemidactylus gecko (also known as “house geckos”), which Daniel had found in his home country of Colombia. Yingyod has been using iNaturalist to study the distribution of the widespread Hemidactylus frenatus and was also familiar with another widely distributed Hemidactylus, Hemidactylus garnotii. “After I noticed that [the gecko] should be H. garnotii, I browsed through all observations of Hemidactylus in Colombia and I found several of them had characters of H. garnotii. Then I asked Daniel to capture some geckos to check the chin shields, which is the key character, and it came up in here.”

After some more discussion, Daniel says “since identifications based on photographs are often not reliable we decided to look for evidence in a biological collection. I've worked as assistant in the Museo de Herpetología Universidad de Antioquia (MHUA in Spanish), one of the most important herpetological museums in Colombia, so it was our starting point.”

Daniel examined the collection’s 38 Hemidactylus specimens while Yingyod (pictured above) verified his findings and the two found that five specimens were indeed of H. garnotii; one of them a previously published specimen which had been misidentified and the other four were unpublished records. Furthermore, these specimens date the species’ introduction to Colombia back to at least 2004. The two herpetologists collaborated on a paper, Confirming the presence of a fourth species of non-native house gecko of the genus Hemidactylus Oken, 1817 (Squamata, Gekkonidae) in Colombia, which was published in Check List in August of 2018. You can find a PDF of the article here.

“iNaturalist is very useful for invasive species detection and monitoring,” says Yingyod. “As local biologists might not have experience with newly introduced species, they could easily misidentify them. However, it will be effective if only the numbers of observers and observations are large enough, so the bias of observation efforts is reduced.”  Yingyod has another publication which uses data from iNaturalist coming out this month and explains “I used photographs in iNaturalist to determine clonal composition of a parthenogenetic species in a particular region. Clones of this species can be identified by coloration patterns so that iNaturalist is useful.”

Daniel (above) believes that “collaborative platforms can help monitor biodiversity because it is like having eyes everywhere...Obviously, the amount of data is very large and won’t always have the best quality, for this reason it is necessary first to teach the people of how take the data.” He is collaborating with Instituto Alexander von Humboldt (iNaturalist’s network partner in Colombia) to educate observers and says

The project is named Participative Inventories, and we are working with farmers and people from rural areas to teach them how to monitoring the biodiversity of their forests by themselves. We provide them some cameras and they take the records, then a group of experts in different areas (e.g. plants, mammals, reptiles, birds) help them to identify the records and to upload it to iNat. It is the most beautiful way to do science for the people and with the people.

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


- Daniel was featured in an Observation of the Week post from last summer.

- The science behind gecko foot adhesion is pretty amazing.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, August 30, 2018 19:24

Comments

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Yingyod, congratulations on an international and virtual collaboration! I guess you don't need me to take a look at those geckos anymore? Haha. Sorry I didn't have time to discuss at the time.

Posted by bennypoo about 1 year ago (Flag)
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Awesome!

Posted by leptonia about 1 year ago (Flag)
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So great to see an international collaboration result from the iNaturalist observations. Congrats to all involved. I'm also looking forward to seeing Yingyod's upcoming paper on frequencies of L. lugubris morphs.
I was, however, a little disappointed to not see the iNaturalist observations/photo vouchers referenced in the paper. These photos were critical to this discovery and they provide additional locality info; they should have been added to the list of "specimens examined" as photo vouchers. One of the Colombian iNat records is also from a student, and it would have been great to see him acknowledged for his contribution to understanding the local herpetofauna.
Lastly, it was great to see the power of the iNat user community. Five museum specimens were incorrectly identified; being at a museum, these specimens likely received less attention than the iNat photos that initiated this project. Thus, it was iNat that reduced the detection time for this introduced species.

Posted by gregpauly about 1 year ago (Flag)
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Nice! Great work guys!

Posted by heteromyid about 1 year ago (Flag)
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I am impressed by the power of iNaturalist and people! Great job!

Posted by carmenbdelossantos about 1 year ago (Flag)
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Great collaboration, guys!

Posted by gbentall about 1 year ago (Flag)
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BTW, we have something similar brewing here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/14533102 and are discussing writing a note on the discovery and collaboration.

Posted by gbentall about 1 year ago (Flag)
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Cool collaboration!

Posted by damontighe about 1 year ago (Flag)

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