Journal archives for February 2019

February 02, 2019

A Mantis Shrimp in Mozambique - Observation of the Week, 2/2/19

This peacock mantis shrimp, seen off of Mozambique by @jennykeeping, is our Observation of the Week!

“Since I started diving in 2012, the marine world has had me captivated,” says Jenny (aka @jennykeeping). Jenny tells me she has always been interested in nature, but her current research (for her master’s degree) focuses on “the stingray species of Southern Mozambique, and so stingrays and elasmobranchs in general are my primary scope of interest. But honestly, if it's underwater then I want to know more about it!”

While the mantis shrimp Jenny photographed might be a once-in-a-lifetime sight for many of us more terrestrial folk, she says that

the peacock mantis shrimp is a common sighting in Tofo, Mozambique. Especially on our shallow (<16m) sites we have these colourful charismatic critters scurrying all over the reef and tucking themselves in to a hole, but curious enough to then poke their heads back out in this inquisitive pose, like has been captured in this photo.

Despite their common name, mantis shrimps are technically not “shrimp” as we commonly think of them (which belong in the infraorder Caridea), but are part of a separate taxonomic group, the order Stomatopoda. Oh, and they’re also definitely not mantids. Not only do they have some of the most complex visual organs of any known creature, mantis shrimps use their forelimbs to strike prey with incredible speed, creating cavitation bubbles in the water! I could go on, but The Oatmeal has already, in cartoon form, famously shown how crazy awesome these creatures are, so check it out.  

“I have been using iNaturalist to help in the identification of the marine creatures we see here in southern Mozambique, but I also enjoy the daily email updates to see what observations have been made, especially of stingrays, all over the world,” says Jenny (above, in her preferred environs).

It is helping me to learn how to critically look at the identifying features of marine species, especially elasmobranchs and stingrays. There are such intricate details that can tell a species a part it's really a skill I admire in the ID pros in iNaturalist. I also then find myself using the interactive map a lot to explore species distributions, whilst also dreaming of my next diving destination!

- by Tony Iwane. Photo of Jenny by Steven Scagnelli.

- How do mantis shrimps strike so quickly? Dr. Sheila Patek explains in a TED Talk

- BBC’s Earth Unplugged team tries to get slow motion footage of a mantis shrimp. 

- Here are all faved Stomatopoda observations on iNat!

Posted on February 02, 2019 10:12 PM by tiwane tiwane | 4 comments | Leave a comment

February 11, 2019

A Rare Moth is Found in Chile - Observation of the Week, 2/10/19

Our Observation of the Week is this Andeabatis chilensis moth, seen in Chile by bernardo_segura!

Last week, Frank Izaguirre (@birdizlife) messaged me, writing “Tony, check this one out. It just showed up on my feed! So beautiful, even kinda trippy, and a first for iNat,” and directing me to Bernardo Segura’s photos of the insane moth you see above. So it was chosen as Observation of the Day and got a lot of love on social media, including this great comment on Facebook: "The seventies called. They want their wings back!”

What was really cool is that not only did a user who was mostly interested in birds fall in love with this moth, but John Grehan (@johngrehan), a specialist in swift moths (aka ghost moths), of which this species is a member. John and Bernardo connected, and Bernardo will (fingers crossed) attempt to collect some specimens for John in the hopes of collaborating on an article.

“[This find] illustrates the value of iNaturalist in the way it can alert specialists about new species or new opportunities with known species,” says John. “I have an automatic link for new notifications on Hepialidae and this has contributed to at least two publications. And where new species are suspected it is possible to get in touch with the photographer to see if specimens may be obtained in the future.” He says this last part is critical and would like to encourage observers to try and get a specimen if a specialist ask for one and if local rules allow it. John notes that this species is the only known member of its genus, and that those black tips on the gold scales (see below) are “unique to this species as far as currently known.”

So how did Bernardo come across this moth? Well, unlike many moth finds, he heard it first:

Two years ago I was in the beautiful Alerce Costero national park in the rain forests of southern Chile, taking photos of some frogs at night when I saw a big fluffy thing moving in some branches close to me. It was big as a fist and very loud in its movement so at first I thought it was some small mammal like the Colocolo opossum (Dromiciops gliroides) but when I pointed my headlamp towards it I realized that it was a huge moth moving clumsily in the branches, a moth of a species that I have only seen photos of before and was hoping to see sometime, the incredible and kind of mythological to me Andeabatis chilensis.

“Details of biology are poorly or entirely unknown for most ghost moth species,” says John. However, what we know about them is fascinating. Eggs are generally dropped on the ground and “newly hatched larvae of many (all?) species feed on dead plant detritus or fungi before transitioning to live plants.” And when consuming live plant material, many larvae remain on their own, “living in tunnels made of silk and debris or bore into soil or host plants. Most are probably root feeders.“ Adults, like the one Bernardo photographed, lack functioning mouth parts, meaning they often live for no more than a single night - so he was lucky to have found this one!

Bernardo (above), who has a masters in wildlife conservation, says he has “been passionate about nature since I can remember. Always a curious boy enjoying watching bugs and others animals mainly in the Chilean Andes, now I try to immortalize those marvelous findings through photography and to share them to everyone.” He works with a variety of organisms, “from the most understudied and unknown velvet worms to the charismatic wild cats of the Andes.

I’m just starting to use INaturalist and I believe it’s a great way in which everyone can help to improve the knowledge of  species, I’m now uploading years of finding, starting from interesting and understudied animals like Andeabatis chilensis.

- by Tony Iwane. Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity. Many thanks to Bernardo, John, and Frank.

- Check out Bernardo’s Facebook page and Flickr gallery, as well as John’s site!

- Not only did Bernardo take some sweet photos of the moth, he also shot really nice video of it as well!

- Here are links to two of the papers John was involved in, which cited several iNaturalist observations.

Posted on February 11, 2019 06:52 AM by tiwane tiwane | 26 comments | Leave a comment