Journal archives for July 2016

July 08, 2016

Observation of the Week, 7/8/16

This Fan-throated Lizard seen by @ashutoshshinde in India is our Observation of the Week.

Sometimes you’ll get lucky and take a great animal photo without much effort, but that’s usually not the case. And it definitely was not the case for Ashutosh Shinde and his companions, but photos like the one above make it all worth it.

Ashutosh has always been interested in animals and nature, but a visit to the Gir Forest in Gujarat (last home of the Asiatic Lion) in 2013 really got him interested in nature photography. “I clicked many images (most of them are of trash quality ;) ),” he admits, “but it took off from there.”

He’s long been fascinated by the stunning Fan-throated Lizards of India, so he and a group of fellow photographers drove nearly four hours to the lizard’s habitat and began to search for this tiny reptile. They soon lucked into a male displaying on a rock and then used teamwork to keep track of it and take photos. “Since the texture of the dorsal part of the body was extremely camouflaged, we had decided that one out of three will always keep an eye on the lizard's movement while the rest of the three are shooting and this activity continued in turns so that each one of us get to photograph the beauty.” The group also made sure to not disturb the animal and interrupt it during mating season, using only telephoto lenses for their shots. “The entire stint of 3-4 hours was one of the best times spent in wild so far,” says Ashutosh. “Finally we said goodbye to this beautiful species, with heavy heart but with a promise to come back next season.”

Like the Fan-throated Lizard, quite a few lizard species have a dewlap, or loose fold of skin on the throat, that they can extend by using internal cartilaginous structures. These displays are used to attract mates and communicate with other males regarding territory, and territorial disputes can lead to violent fights between males.

“Currently, as i am relatively amateur in this field, I try to learn each and every thing in nature which comes up to me...may it be mammals, birds, or insects,” says Ashutosh. He uses iNaturalist not only to identify the organisms he finds, but to discover other species he has never heard of before. And his philosophy about wildlife photography?

“If you show patience and respect for nature, it will never send you empty handed. Hence follow utmost care and practice best ethical wildlife photography techniques while on the field, you will surely be rewarded with an outstanding shot.”

- by Tony Iwane

- Awesome video showing Fan-throated Lizards in action courtesy of the Maharashtra Forest Department.

- V. Deepak of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore has recently discovered five species of Fan-throated Lizards. 

- Sir David Attenborough elicits some territorial displays from an Anole lizard by using a mirror.

- Other iNat users have also posted excellent photos of Fan-throated Lizards, check ‘em out here.

- BBC made a nice documentary about the Asiatic Lions of Gir Forest.

Posted on July 08, 2016 07:10 AM by tiwane tiwane | 2 comments | Leave a comment

July 21, 2016

Observation of the Week, 7/20/16

This Rainbow Whiptail seen by @dllavaneras in Venezuela is our Observation of the Week!

An entomologist living and working in Venezuela, Daniel Llavaneras and fellow members of ConBiVe (a non-profit dedicated to the conservation of Venezuelan biodiversity) recently went on an exploratory research trip to Venezuela’s San Esteban National Park. On the last day of their visit, they went to Isla Larga, which is just off the coast. “We saw a wildlife cornucopia,” he says, “from squids and fishes to sea urchins and feather duster worms. Once we got out of the water, we thought that the wildlife surprises were over, and then we saw a blue streak dashing across the sand towards us.” That blue streak was the Rainbow Whiptail pictured above. It approached the group and “started eating the ants that were coming to and from a nearby nest. It gave me enough time to pull out my camera and shoot a few frames before some enthusiastic tourists approached it too quickly and it ran away.”

Rainbow Whiptails are quick, vibrantly-colored lizards native to the Caribbean, Central America and South America, and have now become established in Florida. Some populations of this lizard and other members of its genus are all-female or mostly female and reproduce by parthenogenesis (laying unfertilized eggs), and they have been known to engage in pseudocopulation, in which two females engage in mating-like behavior.

Daniel’s interest in natural history began during childhood (“I still have the newspaper clipping when Cryolophosaurus ellioti was published; it amazed me that dinosaurs could be found in what is now Antarctica,” he says), and his current main interests include urban biodiversity and citizen science/outreach. “The incredible diversity of animals that thrive (or at least still survive) in an increasingly urbanized area is something that greatly interests me,” he says. Daniel’s been following the rise and fall of different species in and around Caracas, noting that while he hasn’t seen a spreadwing damselfly (once common) in five years, other animals like macaws, sloths and even frogs can be found in abundance in certain areas. “The number of species that I’ve found in my house since I moved three years ago is over 100, most being insects and spiders, but also geckos and birds, including one stray vulture (I live on a 6th floor).”

Daniel only recently joined iNaturalist, after hearing about it from a colleague, but says that using iNaturalist has already “cemented and refined the way I document my wildlife observations. My notes always include behavior and other miscellaneous tidbits, but they sometimes stay in my field notebook for weeks or months, with many organisms without IDs. By uploading to iNaturalist I can get help from other colleagues around the world, and I can also help with citizen science, an area that I really enjoy.” He’s optimistic that through citizen science and other forms of outreach, “people [will] realize that there is a lot to gain with conservation and ecotourism.”

by Tony Iwane

- You can follow Daniel on Twitter and Instagram, and he says he’s happy to help with insect IDs and answer questions.

- Here’s a paper Daniel helped with, looking into whether or not sylvatic bugs are becoming associated with human dwellings.

Posted on July 21, 2016 03:54 AM by tiwane tiwane | 2 comments | Leave a comment

July 27, 2016

Observation of the Week, 7/27/16

This parasitic Isopod seen by @oryzias outside of Hong Kong is our Observation of the Week!

Like many of us, Hung-Tsun Cheng became infatuated with animals and nature after learning about dinosaurs. As a child, his father took him on weekend hikes “if I finished my homework,” bringing along a net to look for fish in the streams. He was especially fascinated by fish that had developed sucker-like fins on their bellies that allowed them to stay put in fast-flowing streams.

While recently moving some Sumatran silverside fish (Hypoatherina valenciennei) from a drying-out tidepool, Hung-Tsun noticed one that was unhealthy. And on closer inspection, he found a parasitic isopod attached to it!

While it’s tough to ID, this isopod most likely belongs to the Cymothoidae family of isopods, which are parasitic, mainly on fish, and found in both marine and freshwater environments. There are about 380 described species in the family, and they feed on blood. Interestingly, these isopods are protandrous hermaphrodites, meaning they are all males when they are juveniles, but become female when they attach to their species-specific host. Perhaps the most well-known member of this family is Cymothoa exigua, which feeds on the tongues of snapper fish. Eventually, the fish’s tongue withers and dies, but the fish will actually use the isopod as a prosthetic tongue! The isopod presumably stays in there as it is a safe place for its young to develop.

The Hong Kong area has quite a thriving iNaturalist community, with over 15,000 observations of 2,999 (so close to 3,000!) species made by 257 observers. @sunnetchan has over 4,000 of those observations and has written a passionate journal entry about documenting every living thing he can. @hkmoths has started a Hong Kong Moths project to document moth species and abundance. Keep up the awesome work, Hong Kong iNatters!

- by Tony Iwane

- A nice write-up in Wired about Cymothoa exigua, and some videos showing them. Not for the squeamish!

- It’s National Moth Week! Roger Kendrick (@hkmoths) has a nice article about moths and citizen science on their website. Get out and find some moths!

Posted on July 27, 2016 05:10 AM by tiwane tiwane | 3 comments | Leave a comment