Identifier Profile: @naufalurfi

This is the first in what will be an ongoing monthly series highlighting the amazing identifiers of iNaturalist. 

Hailing from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Naufal Urfi Dhiya'ulhaq (@naufalurfi) tells me he’s always been interested in nature and animals (especially dinosaurs when he was a child), but “it wasn't until college (and once i found out about iNat) where I really began to go out and explore the nature around me.

Before iNat I already liked to take photos of interesting animals that I stumbled across, but the problem was, I wanted an app or online repository where I could properly store these observations. Another big problem was that I had a hard time trying to identify what species they were. So I kinda just looked up "nature" apps on the Play Store to store these photos and iNat came up first on the list. Not only could I compile my observations online but I could also get them identified as well!

That was in October of 2018, and in just over three years Naufal has posted over twenty-two thousand observations and made over thirty thousand identifications for others. He’s also now the top identifier of spider observations in (this rough approximation of) Southeast Asia and often writes helpful comments and asks clarifying questions when identifying. Amazingly, he only really started studying spiders after joining iNaturalist! “I do remember I had an orbweaver make a web in my backyard which I regularly feed caterpillars to,” he recalls, 

[but] once I started to regularly explore nature I stumbled upon more and more spiders and their diversity. I then realized that spiders are in fact understudied here in Southeast Asia, unlike other arthropod groups such as odonates and butterflies. Instead of letting that discourage me, I kinda took it as a challenge! It’s fun to figure them out, from knowing pretty much nothing and slowly getting to know what species live around me, and then seeing the huge diversity of Southeast Asian spiders through iNaturalist...

It fascinates me how most spiders are generalist predators yet they evolved various ways to capture their prey. Some spiders build capture webs in various shapes and complexity, others chase or ambush their prey in all kinds of microhabitats. There are even spiders who specialize in catching fish!  

When it comes to identifying spiders, Naufal (above, looking for spiders with @imronafriandi) says that it’s a tricky yet sometimes straightforward pursuit. Tricky because many spiders are similar in outward appearance and because they’re understudied in Southeast Asia, but straightforward in that nearly all species are differentiated by genital structure, so if that information is available it’s fairly easy. 

That is why often we can only identify to family or genus unless the species is well-documented, and it’s why it is important to have someone who can document the species while alive and then confirm the ID through examining the genitals. In some cases an observation matches well with a description (example: though of course it can still be wrong and still needs to be confirmed through genital examination.

Due to the dearth of spider research in Southeast Asia, identifying spiders helps to fill those knowledge gaps, 

particularly regarding distribution. I am kinda amazed how you guys in the US can delimit spider distribution to state level ("this species is only distributed until this state and in that state is only an occasional sighting") while here distribution for most species is still a mystery. iNat definitely helps with that. For example, Hyllus giganteus is a popular pet jumping spider but the native distribution is rather unclear. On [the World Spider Catalog] it is stated to be from Sumatra to Australia, but if that is the case then there should be more iNat observations of this species. After looking through Hyllus observations it seems now clear that H. giganteus is distributed on Sulawesi and Maluku while the ones to the west represent misidentified H. diardi.

Although I did start identifying mainly because it is fun to do, I also feel glad when people actually ask me about spiders. I get asked alot on iNat how to differentiate spider species or just getting mentioned to ID observations. However, not so much of that happens in real life, since spiders (and invertebrates in general) don't get as much love in indonesia as birds or big mammals. So this kinda motivates me to introduce spiders to the people here.

The World Spider Catalog, which iNaturalist follows for its spider taxonomy, “is the go-to site for looking up descriptions of a particular species,” says Naufal. “All the references are free to download with only a signup required. I recommend anyone who is interested in IDing spiders to sign up.” He also gave me a list of his most commonly-used resources, which I’ll put at the bottom of this post, and some tips for observing and identifying spiders:

1. Eyes can be important to differentiate spider families (or even genera). Many families have the standard 4-4 arrangement but others are unique such as the jumping spiders (Salticidae) which have 2 very large anterior median eyes.

2. In species that build webs, the web shape is very helpful to differentiate family or genus.

3. A dorsal shot of the body is very important. I have seen many observations by macro-photographers only from the front and while they are aesthetically pleasing, it is hard to ID only by looking at the face. Try to always include a pic of the dorsal side.

Not content with just observing and identifying, Naufal has also helped iNat grow in his home country by providing nearly all of the Indonesian translations for iNat’s mobile apps, speaking at various nature groups and schools, and introducing iNat to friends who love exploring nature. “We did end up making a group of active iNat users based in Yogyakarta where we often explore and make observations together, as well as discussing our local biodiversity (our current name is Jogja iNatters),” he tells me. The group explores local nature areas like rivers (above, with @alfonsustoribio and @lukito_hadi, among others), and they’ve made a project for mapping Yogyakarta river biodiversity. “iNat helped me become more aware about the local biodiversity,” he says, “and helped motivate my interest not just about spiders but all the other group of organisms as well.”

I had the pleasure of meeting Naufal (below, second from the right on the bottom row) last January in Singapore, at a workshop sponsored and organized by the National Geographic Society. Naufal gave a great presentation about iNaturalist and Indonesia, and like the others who attended he’s done so much to support the iNat community in Asia and elsewhere. It's humbling to meet so many people who've enriched everyone's experience on iNat, thank you!

(Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.)

Naufal’s favorite Southeast Asian spider taxa?

I particularly like those wacky and weirdly shaped orbweavers (and other families) such as the tree-stump mimics (Poltys, Caerostris), bird-poop spiders (Cyrtarachne, Pasilobus), Ladybird mimic (Paraplectana), Bolas spider (Ordgarius), Spiny orbweavers (Gasteracanthinae), Phoroncidia, and many more. I also like those beautifully colored Opadometa and Hamadruas.

Some of Naufal’s references for identifying Southeast Asian spiders:

1. Spider Families of the World by Jocqué & Dippenaar-Schoeman is great for keying spider families (available on WSC).

2. An Introduction to the Spiders of South East Asia with Notes on All the Genera by Murphy & Murphy provides an overview of the families that exists in SEA (available on WSC).

3. Forest spiders of South East Asia: With a Revision of the Sac and Ground Spiders by Deeleman-Reinhold is more focused on ground-dwelling spiders.

4. Borneo Spiders by Koh & Bay gives an overview of the genera and species found in Borneo, though it can be useful for other parts of SEA as well.

He’s also made a free photo guide to spider genera of Yogyakarta for anyone to peruse.

If you have suggestions for identifiers to feature, please send me a direct message on iNat! I’m especially interested in featuring identifiers of underrepresented taxa or from underrepresented regions.

Posted on March 12, 2021 12:24 AM by tiwane tiwane


Tremendous work, Naufal.

Posted by nyoni-pete over 2 years ago

I have to say I feel so fortunate on meeting you @naufalurfi, and Knowing about your work! Keep leading the next generation of biodiversity reservers!
Felicidades amigo!
From across the planet!

Posted by aztekium over 2 years ago

Thanks @tiwane! Don't forget to profile a few curators and researchers as well!

Posted by jeremyhussell over 2 years ago

@jeremyhussell for sure! The list of amazing contributors is endless. Feel free to message me with suggestions.

Posted by tiwane over 2 years ago

Tremendous work, Naufal.

Posted by nyoni-pete over 2 years ago

Congrats on the feature and thanks for all your help ID'ing my spider observations!

Posted by roythedivebro over 2 years ago

Awesome !

Posted by jtch over 2 years ago

Adorable work and efforts, Naufal, go ahead!
With best wishes for your future,
(Christian Kropf, Co-editor of the World Spider catalog)

Posted by christiankropf over 2 years ago

Nice work, in Oct 2019 is was in Indonesia and YogYoga but i spent so much time in autobus (country is tooo big) that there was hardly any time left. java was not as beautifull as i hoped so i guess i did not know the right spots.

Posted by ahospers over 2 years ago

Inspirational! This is going to be a great series.

Posted by janetwright over 2 years ago

Wow. Respect.

Posted by julian_wittische over 2 years ago

Fantastic work, @naufalurfi! And great write-up @tiwane! Inspirational for sure.

Posted by sullivanribbit over 2 years ago

Congratulations, and thanks a lot!

Posted by nelson_wisnik over 2 years ago

Tremendous works @naufalurfi ......Many Congragulations.....!

Posted by thilinahettiarachchi over 2 years ago

Brilliant! This is inspiring!

Posted by amarzee over 2 years ago

Congratulations! Glad to have met you at the iNat workshop last year. :-)

Posted by sohkamyung over 2 years ago

selamat mas @naufalurfi

Posted by wildan_ardani over 2 years ago

Wow, and congratulations!

Posted by robinellison over 2 years ago

This is WONDERFUL! to read! it is like getting a chance to meet these cool people! it is so important what a great impact this website has on bringing together like minded folks!

Posted by ingrid_kaatz over 2 years ago

Thanks a lot for the appreciation!
iNat is indeed a truly wonderful place to bring together naturalists from every corner of the world.
When visiting Yogyakarta don't hesitate to contact me, i'll show you the good observation spots!

Posted by naufalurfi over 2 years ago

Great job, @naufalurfi and thanks for all the Spider ID helps :)

Posted by albertkang over 2 years ago

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