Journal archives for April 2017

April 01, 2017

Observation of the Week, 3/31/17

This Aspidimorpha sanctaecrucis beetle, seen in in Indonesia by @tickteng, is our Observation of the Week!

While not a professional naturalist, Patrick has always been interested in the natural world. As a child, he says, “I spent a lot of time watching documentaries, learning about nature. I'd chase any insects and collect them. My favorites were grasshoppers and mantids. I'd go into the muddy pool to find any little fishes or critters. I find that the life of these little creatures is fascinating and too pretty to be missed.”

He recently joined iNaturalist because he wanted to share the photos of wildlife that he’s taken, and we’re glad he did. The above Aspidimorpha sanctaecrucis beetle photograph above became one of our most viewed social media posts ever, with nearly 12,000 views on Twitter (and garnered the nickname Power Ranger beetle) and nearly 6,000 on Facebook (where it was called an Iron Man beetle)!

Like a past Observation of the Week, Patrick found this animal while waiting for a bus. “So, it was Friday, the sun was scorching hot,” recalls Patrick about the day he took the photograph. “I just finished doing my work, waiting for the bus. It took a while for the bus to come, so I decided to explore the grass nearby. And there, when I turned a leaf upside down, I found that little beetle, gleaming in its gold armor. That was not my first encounter with this beauty. I picked it up and then took a photograph of it in my hand. After a photo or two, the beetle then flew away from my hand, back to its peaceful sanctuary.”

Aspidimorpha sanctaecrucis beetles can be found throughout much of easter and southeastern Asia, from northeast India through China and down to Indonesia. As a member of the “tortoise beetles,” it has elytra (the hard outer wings) and a pronotum (thorax overing) that spread out to cover the legs. In this beetle’s case, those parts of it anatomy are translucent and have gold and red patches, which fade once the animal dies. Both larvae and adults feed on plants in the morning glory family, and the larvae even cover themselves with fecal shields!

- Tony Iwane

- You can check out Patrick’s Instagram feed here.

- Can’t get enough tortoise beetles? There are over 400 observations of them on iNat!

- More about fecal shields from Wired Magazine. Yup.

Posted on April 01, 2017 05:20 AM by tiwane tiwane | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 20, 2017

Observation of the Week, 4/20/17

This Cryptocellus tickspider, seen in Panama by @stephane_degreef, is our Observation of the Week!

Belgian-born environmental engineer Stéphane De Greef has a humorous yet insightful take on the field of biology:

I think every child is interested in nature until their mother tell them “Don’t touch that! It’s dirty! Dangerous! Disgusting!" Children who just ignore these warnings usually become biologists! In many of us, you’ll still find the same enthusiasm, passion and curiosity we had when we were children. It’s intense, it’s in us 24/7 and, frankly, it’s often contagious! When I was a kid, I lived near a small forest in Belgium. Every weekend, I would walk out early morning with my gumboots and my pocketknife and go exploring the nearby woods, streams and caves...And guess what? Thirty years later, I’m still doing the exact same thing. And I love it.

While he has spent over a decade in Southeast Asia, Stéphane is now spending an entire year in Panama’s Cocobolo Nature Preserve, studying arthropod diversity. He has a “soft spot” for ants and arachnids, and wants to “use my findings for awareness and education, and to promote the place so that more people can experience the rainforests and cloud forest first hand and understand why it’s so important to preserve it.”

He found the amazing organism pictured above while leading a group of students from Virginia Tech, collecting unusual arthropods. “So there I was,” recalls Stéphane, “walking in the rainforest with my gumboots, looking under rotting logs for unusual critters, when I noticed these small arachnids. Too stocky to be harvestmen. Too flat, thick and slow to be spiders. But I knew I’d seen them before in photos elsewhere: on Piotr Naskrecki’s Facebook wall.”

Stéphane collected several specimens and photographed them back at the research station, for the Meet Your Neighbours site. @sjl197 here on iNat was able to identify them as members of the genus Cryptocellus, which belong to the small arachnid order of Ricinulei, or the Hooded Tickspiders.

Numbering only 58 described species, little is known about the Hooded Tickspiders. They are tiny, usually only reaching 10mm in length; predatory; and have a retractable “hood” that covers their chelicerae (mouthparts). Lacking true eyes, they use the chelicerae and their long second pair of legs as sensory organs, and in males the third pair of legs are modified for copulation. In fact, this third pair of legs can be used taxonomically to differentiate between genuses and species. They are found only in the Neotropical region and West-Central Africa. Oh, and like ticks and mites, tickspider young only have six legs - the other pair grows in later!

Outreach is an important part of Stéphane’s work, and while he uses Facebook, he says it’s not great for organizing his data, “which is why I turned to iNaturalist. It allows me to share my findings in a nice, clean, efficient way, including my photos, my field notes and geolocation. I get the benefits of crowdsourcing the identification and people who are not keen on Facebook can still access my work. It’s nice, tidy and efficient, and the species catalogs are exhaustive and up-to-date...While iNaturalist hasn’t changed the way I interact and see the natural world, it definitely changed the way I share my discoveries with the world.”

- by Tony Iwane

- Stéphane has a great website that includes his photos, a field guide to arthropods of northwest Cambodia, information about his upcoming Bug Camps in Panama, and more. Check it out!

- In case you wanted to know more about tickspiders...

- Gumboot dancing is an artform in Africa, here’s a cool video about it. Oh, and Paul Simon’s Gumboots is a great song as well.

Posted on April 20, 2017 09:26 PM by tiwane tiwane | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 28, 2017

Observation of the Week, 4/27/17

Our Observation of the Week is this duo of Green Marsh Hawk Dragonflies, seen in Indonesia by @oldman19510!

Steve Jones was an aviculturist for most of his life, having lived in Australia and is now retired and residing in Bali. “[I was] always trying to identify any bird species (in Australia) that I came across in the wild, I wanted to identify birds here in Bali so I bought a field book and binoculars,” he explains. “I then started photographing birds with the aim of getting all Bali birds and have 265 species on [my] eBird life list.”

However, with his birding lens in the repair shop for awhile, Steve says “I started taking close-up and macro with a Canon SX 50 and a couple of iNat members suggested that I record my findings and so this is what I do.”

After iNat user @briang helped Steve identify a Green Marsh Hawk eating a Ditch Jewel, he began to get more interested in Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies), which led him to the sequence shown in this post. “When I saw these two flying together (but not in mating position) I followed,” he recalls. “Predator was able to fly quite strongly with his victim and when he had placed his prey on a suitable perch, he started feeding in earnest. The victim never put up any resistance, perhaps a bite to the neck when captured would have been a near fatal blow.”

Green Marsh Hawk dragonflies (Orthetrum sabina) range through much of the Eastern hemisphere, from Australia through North African and southeastern Europe and are, like all dragonflies, strong predators. I asked briang about this particular observation, and he notes that “Cannibalism among dragonflies is not uncommon in some species. That being said, I don't believe cannibalism accounts for the majority of a species' diet (at least in species I've observed)--it seems to be more of an opportunistic prey choice.” He says many will take tenereal (freshly-emerged) dragonflies, but that these two look to be both adult males. “It's possible the prey was in tandem with a female and thus an easier target or maybe he was just unwary and the other male saw an opportunity...I would have loved to see how this interaction went down.”

“My hobby is photography – nature is the subject,” explains Steve. “I now have a greater appreciation of nature and am amazed at what I see on a daily basis. The luck is finding something interesting to photograph but the challenge is to try to identify each species before I post and look to iNat for conformation or correction.”

He continues to explore his new home (like birding Mt. Agung, in the above photo), and says that “Indonesia has such a huge potential for finding something rare or unusual. I am now planning to travel to other islands and look forward to what can be found.”

- by Tony Iwane

- There are more than 300 observations in the “Odonata - eating” Project. Check them out!

- If you wanted actual video of a Green Marsh Hawk devouring the head of another odonate, then you’re in luck! Here’re two: and

Posted on April 28, 2017 01:25 AM by tiwane tiwane | 1 comment | Leave a comment