Journal archives for March 2021

March 03, 2021

A Bat and a Bat Fly Seen in Kenya - Observation of the Week, 3/2/2021

Our Observation of the Week is this Bent-winged Bat (Miniopterus sp.) and its Nycteribiid Bat Fly (Family Nycteribiidae) parasite, seen in Kenya by @macykrishnamoorthy!

Macy Krishnamoorthy originally wanted to be a veterinarian, but after studying lowland gorillas at the Buffalo Zoo with Dr. Sue Margulis’s team, she realized research was her true interest. She took Dr. Margulis’s “Wildlife Ecology and Conservation in South Africa” course at Canisius College and 

We followed troops of monkeys through the mountains, tried eating mopane worms (which are really caterpillars), and tried mist-netting for bats....and caught nothing! The next year, when I returned as the TA for the course, we caught a singular Myotis welwitschii (Welwitch's bat).  But that's all it took and I was hooked. I wanted to do fieldwork and I wanted to do it with bats. 

Currently a PhD candidate at Texas Tech University, Macy’s research has focused on baobab trees, which are pollinated by fruit bats over much of their range. “My work,” she says, 

has focused on the landscape and individual tree characteristics (e.g., height and girth of the tree) that influence the number of fruit produced and identifying differences between hawkmoth and fruit bat pollinators that might change the number of fruit a baobab produces.

At the core of it, I am really interested in the fields of ecology, mammalogy, and natural history with emphasis on ecosystem services. How can research in these fields influence our perceptions of animals (such as bats!) and provide information for conservation decisions and wildlife management?

Originally returning to southern Africa to start her work, she and her colleagues used citizen science to determine that baobabs in that region are more likely to be pollinated by hawkmoths. So, they picked up and moved to Kenya, where she encountered the bent-winged bat and its fly parasite.

My first few nights, we mist-netted for bats at the water sites. This was extremely different from my experiences netting in the United States so far, the diversity and sheer number of bats was overwhelming. On a good night netting in Texas and New Mexico (depending on where you set up), we would catch maybe 20 bats a night on a good night and all from two families of bats.  In Nuu, Kenya on two nights combined (and we shut the nets earlier than typical), we caught 90 individual bats from seven families. Thanks to Paul Webala for helping to ID/assist with the research! One of these bats was the pictured Miniopterus species and its bat fly.  It's probably the largest bat fly I have ever seen on a bat.  As someone who's interested in the bats, I've done very little with their parasites, but know that the parasites are relatively understudied groups.

Don’t all bat wings bend? What makes the wings of Miniopterus so special that they’re called “bent-winged” bats? These tiny (about 10 cm in length) insectivores have relatively large wings (wingspan = 30-35 cm) and the third finger of each wing is particularly long. “In flight,” says Darren Naish, “this particularly long finger gives these bats extremely long, narrow wings. They're fast (though not particularly manoeuvrable) fliers in open spaces, and are also good long-distance colonisers: some species are long-distance seasonal migrants.”

This bat’s parasite may not look like a fly (note the lack of wings), but Nycteribiids are definitely in the order Diptera, and specialize in parasitizing bats. Adapted to living in caves along with their hosts, many lack eyes or only have rudimentary ones, and they are quite host specific. Both sexes feed on blood, but females will leave their host every so often to attach one fully grown larva to the cave wall. The larva has developed inside of her, going through multiple instars, and soon pupates after being deposited on the wall. After several weeks it will emerge and search for a host.

“I use iNaturalist because I really love the idea that anyone can be a scientist” says Macy (above). “I think the platform encourages people to pay attention to the natural world around them and engage in cataloguing what they see.” She first used iNat years ago out of curiosity, but tells me 

Now, I think there is value in everyone whether citizen scientist to someone actually working with the taxa to upload their sightings. When I was netting bats in Kenya, it wasn't the main focus of my research (I was curious if there were fruit bat species there that could pollinate baobabs) and hadn't collected enough data to publish from. But it was still useful data, so one night, hunting through old photos, I began uploading them. From the ecologist/mammalogist side, I'm very interested in finding ways to use the data collated here.

Side note from Macy:

I could also go into the numerous reasons that bats are cool! Firstly, they are the only mammals to fly. They're the second most diverse mammalian order, after rodents. They're a small animal and though small animals tend to have a short lifespan, bats defy the rules and (longest living wild bat is reportedly at 41 years). Bats are slow reproducers, having only one or two (depending on species) pups per year. Their ability to live with a variety of diseases without becoming sick is also an exceptional feat, physiologically speaking.

- Take a look at several past observations of the week about bats!

- Calvin’s report about bats is woefully fact-free. 

Posted on March 03, 2021 05:02 AM by tiwane tiwane | 6 comments | Leave a comment

March 09, 2021

A Macro Diver in Australia Documents Gobbleguts Mouthbrooding - Observation of the Week, 3/9/21

Our Observation of the Week is this mouth-brooding male Eastern Gobbleguts (Vincentia novaehollandiae) fish, seen in Australia by @emikok!

“I’m just a scuba diver,” Emiko Kawamoto tells me, “I learned how to dive in Japan back in 1994. I moved to Sydney in 2003 but I only started to dive here 2-3 years ago so I am not an experienced Sydney diver yet.” She’s been posting her her photos to iNat for ID help.

Rather than cover a lot of ground when she dives, Emiko likes to “macro dive,” staying in one place and observing the life in front of her. “I stay in a small area and watch the same critters, so my diving style can look very boring but it allows me to observe their particular behavioral patterns,” she explains. 

This technique allowed her to get some great photos of eastern gobbleguts brooding behavior over the past few years. Like some other fish, this Australian endemic engages in paternal mouthbrooding. After the eggs are fertilized, the male holds them in his mouth, protecting them until they’ve hatched (or even longer). Last March, Emiko followed a gravid female:

As I watched, she met a male and they started to dance. It looked like kissing, hugging, and holding. Then the female released two coloured egg masses (orange and white), and fertilization occurred during the ‘‘holding’’ behavior and took about 1- 2 minutes to be completed. I felt quite long, though. During this period the female held the male with her pectoral fin - the “holding” position - while the male kept his genital papilla over the egg clutch as it was being released. I was so excited when the eggs were transferred to male’s mouth. He looked very tired and could not swim with such a heavy mouth. The female disappeared as soon as the eggs were transferred.

She saw the same behavior again this year and posted her shots to iNat, curious as to why the egg mass consisted of two colors. iNat user @markmcg, with the help of a colleague, found a paper describing a similar species. It said the egg mass contained two types of eggs, “a smaller part composed of a compact white mass of small non-functional oocytes and a larger part composed of the bright orange mature ova.” (Vagelli, 2019)

Learning that the eggs are kept in the male’s mouth for days (and sometimes much longer), Emiko (above, with a sea dragon) continued to dive in the same area until she found a male with maturing eggs in his mouth - perhaps even the same one she saw earlier.

Orange eggs had become silver and I could see the developing fish's eyes. The male often kept his mouth closed, but he opened it for regular churning of the eggs so I stayed quiet, sneaking up on him, and waited until he opened his mouth so I could take photos.

After I got home, I saw in my photos that one of the eggs hatched in this mouth. I believe that they stay in dad's mouth for another 4-8 days. I hope to watch them moving and playing in their dad's mouth next time!

(Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.)

- Emiko’s photo of a gorgeous sea spider (and its eggs) was iNat’s Observation of the Day last June!

- Check out the Australasian Fishes project, created by @marckmcg and curated by many others, they’ve done amazing outreach work with underwater photographers.

- Here’s some footage of a Banggai cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni) - same family as gobbleguts - engaging in paternal mouthbrooding.

Posted on March 09, 2021 09:45 PM by tiwane tiwane | 14 comments | Leave a comment

March 12, 2021

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 | 21 comments | Leave a comment

March 16, 2021

In Benin, an African Naturalist Records an Amazing Plant - Observation Week, 3/16/21

Our Observation of the Week is this Amorphophallus dracontioides plant, seen in Benin by @bahleman!

Amadou Bahleman Farid resides in Tanguieta, the main town of Pendjari National Park in northern Benin (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and is currently studying Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill (Bucorvus abyssinicus) population, distribution and habitat use for his master’s thesis. He was inspired to work in biodiversity conservation by his father and uncle, who are retired Water, Forest, and Hunting officers. “They have devoted more than half of their career to activities in the fight against poaching and the conservation of fauna and its habitat in the biosphere reserves of Pendjari and W-Benin,” he explains, “which made me aware that the major issue of the 21st century is the conservation of nature.”

While he’s always been passionate about birds, Farid tells me he’s also interested in insects, plants, mammals and freshwater fish, and has taken photos of wildlife for many years 

with the goal that one day I would find the opportunity to work or collaborate as an explorer for institutions like National Geographic for the production of documentaries about wildlife and their habitats. However, they were not the best photos since I only had a small camera with a very low megapixel count.

In 2017, Farid met Dr. Horst Oebel, a German who’s lived in Benin for more than 20 years. Dr. Oebel runs the RBT-WAP | GIC-WAP program, a program that supports the management and conservation of the protected areas of the complex W-Arly-Pendjari and at the same time he is a very active member of the NGO OeBenin and manages the NGO's account on iNat.

Farid first heard about iNat from Dr. Oebel and started using it in earnest in 2019 after Dr. Oebel gave him access to better cameras. “Once I started using iNat I felt useful in conserving biodiversity through my observations by contributing to science, and scientists started to take an interest in me to be of service to them,” he explains. That includes his observations of Amorphophallus dracontioides, for which he’s the current iNat observation leader.

For a few months now I have been helping botanist Evan Milborrow (@evnep), a researcher based in South Africa, who is particularly interested in African species of Amorphophallus which are incredibly under-studied and about which very little is known. So, I help him collect and find research material (seeds from all African species of Amorphophallus), ideally with rough geographic information (the region they came from) in order to keep track of their locality and organize them correctly into a botanical collection. 

The genus Amorphophallus ranges through Africa, Asia, and Australia, as well as various islands. From an underground tuber they produce one leaf and one inflorescence. The inflorescence has both male flowers and female flowers on the lower part of the inflorescence, the latter of which are receptive to pollen only on the day it blooms. To attract flies and other carrion eaters, Amorphophallus dracontioides emits a smell “reminiscent of rotting carcass and excrement” according to POWO, and Farid concurs, saying some of the plants he found were quite pungent. According to Purdue University, the corms of the plant [I’ve seen “corm” and “tuber” used in different descriptions of the plant, does anyone know which is correct? - Tony] can be “eaten after being cut up, repeatedly washed, and boiled for one or two days” and are considered a famine food

Bahleman Farid (above) admins two projects on iNat, Biodiversite en Zone Girafe Niger and African Spurred Tortoises in West Africa, and tells me he’s taught more than 100 tourist guides, academics, students, schoolchildren (below), and others working to conserve protected areas. 

iNat is the tool that our NGO SOS Savane mainly uses for environmental education sessions in schools around the W-Arly-Pendjari complex through specific transects. The schoolchildren are then introduced to digital tools and discover the biodiversity of their regions with smartphones equipped with iNat.

(Farid speaks French and used machine translation for his responses, which were then lightly edited for clarity.)

Easily the most famous member of Amorphophallus is A. titanum, known as the titan arum or corpse flower. This video delves into its pollination process.

Posted on March 16, 2021 08:08 PM by tiwane tiwane | 19 comments | Leave a comment

March 24, 2021

We want you to license your iNaturalist photos before April 15th!

Two key parts of iNaturalist’s mission are to encourage the sharing of information and to keep the platform free and inclusive. Licensing your content with a Creative Commons license can help with both, so we encourage you to go to your account settings on the website and change your default licenses to anything other than “No license (all rights reserved)” and check the “Update existing” boxes before April 15th. Why? Keep reading below…

What are licenses and how do they work?

When you join iNaturalist you are presented with a “Yes, license my photos and observations so that they can be used by scientists” checkbox. Checking this adds a default Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC) to your content.

A license is an agreement you make with someone who wants to use your property. By law in most places, content like photos are a kind of intellectual property and you have the right to control how your photos are copied in certain situations. Creative Commons (CC) licenses are a bit different: they are licenses you apply that allow anyone to use your intellectual property without having to negotiate with you individually and without having to pay you, as long as the terms of the license are respected, e.g. that they give you credit. This provides content authors with some legal controls while allowing content users to utilize and remix that content without fear of a lawsuit.

On iNat, licensing your photos with a CC license lets a scientist publish your photo in a paper describing a new species or a novel phenomenon. It also allows scientists to use your photos and your data in ways that probably don’t require a license but where the laws in various places are vague or inconsistent. Imagine having to understand the laws in the country of origin of every single person who made every single piece of data you plan to use in your research. CC licenses help scientists avoid those kinds of headaches. You can learn more about the different types of CC license on your account settings on the web.

Why we believe in sharing open data

We believe that making information available and shareable does more good than harm. Specifically, we believe information is most beneficial when it is free of cost and free of legal restrictions. Have you ever tried to look something up only to find the definitive work on the subject is behind a paywall and thought, “Why is scientific information only available to people with enough money to pay for it?” We much prefer the information-seeking experience most of you are more familiar with: going to Wikipedia, where information is free of cost and free of (most) legal restrictions. We think the same thing should apply to information about biodiversity, which is the kind of information we manage on iNat, whether you’re a teenager in Nepal, a scientist in South Africa, or a park manager in Vietnam.

But we said that we think it does “more good than harm.” So what’s the harm? Well for one thing, if a teen in Nepal can access and use information, a multi-billion dollar corporation in California probably can too. While we on staff agree with Wikipedia that allowing for-profit use of information is a good thing that helps spread the information’s benefits more widely, we also suspect that most people who use iNat don’t share that belief. That's why the default license on iNat is the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC) license, which prohibits commercial use.

However, we encourage you to choose a more open license like the Attribution license (CC BY), or to simply relinquish any rights to content you create on iNat through the CC0 dedication. This will allow projects like Wikipedia to use your photos on their species pages (the non-commercial clause prevents reuse on Wikipedia), or ecotourism companies struggling in a post-COVID economy to use your photos to attract new business. Obviously if you make part of your living on your photos that won’t make sense for you, but that probably doesn’t apply to most people on iNat.

Why licensing photos helps keep costs down

As iNaturalist grows, photo storage costs are growing too. We’ve recently been paying over $10,000 a month to store these images on Amazon servers and expect that these costs will double in the next couple of years under iNat’s growth trajectory. This includes the cost of storing the photos (storage) and costs associated with sending the photos over the Internet whenever anyone views or downloads one (bandwidth).

Luckily, we’ve successfully applied to the Amazon Open Data Sponsorship Program (ODP) which means Amazon will kindly pick up the bill associated with licensed photos. Importantly, nothing has changed regarding what data and photos are being made available, or what company is hosting them (we already host all our media with Amazon). This program just makes it a bit easier to access these photos and their associated data and passes the bill on to Amazon. If we can encourage more iNaturalist users to license their photos then we will be able to reduce costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next few years.

We want to encourage you to license your photos before April 15th!

While we suspect that some of you have decided not to license your photos despite the advantages described above, we suspect many of you haven’t just because you weren’t aware how all this works. If that’s you, please go to your account settings on the website cand change your default photo license to anything other than “No license (all rights reserved)” and check the “Update existing” boxes before saving.

Why before April 15th? For two reasons. First, we’re officially launching iNaturalist’s enrollment in the ODP on April 15th, so changing licenses by then will ensure that your photos are included in this open data set. Second, moving photos around requires some processing and we’d love to get this processing done before we get too far into the North American Spring bump, which is the busiest season on iNaturalist.

Currently about 66% of iNaturalist photos are licensed. We’d love to get this up to 75% or 85% with your help before April 15th to help us cut costs and spread the benefits of iNaturalist more widely!

Since the iNaturalist forum has better tools for moderating and facilitating complex discussion, we've disabled comments on this post but have created a companion thread in the forum. We invite your thoughts or questions there.

Posted on March 24, 2021 09:35 PM by loarie loarie

A Guatemalan Red-rump Tarantula Makes a House Visit - Observation of the Week, 3/24/21

Our Observation of the Week is this Guatemalan Red-rump Tarantula (Tliltocatl sabulosus), seen in Guatemala by @ricardelremate!

Ricard Busquets grew up in Premià de Mar, Barcelona, Spain, and tells me he was always interested in nature.

I had the good fortune to grow up in a house full of books and encyclopedias collected by my father. One of these encyclopedias inspired my love for nature: the “Enciclopedia Salvat de la Fauna”. I used to enjoy snacking in the afternoons, after coming home from school, browsing through some of the eleven volumes of which it is composed. It was my favorite, and as I leafed through its pages I traveled around the world discovering incredible animals. The coordinator of that encyclopedia was Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente, a Spanish naturalist and environmentalist, defender of nature, and producer of documentaries for radio and television who died too young in a plane crash in Alaska. I remember the day he died, I was 7 years old and I felt very sad.

Now an adult, Ricard resides in a place teeming with incredible flora and fauna: Guatemala! Living there for about twelve years, he’s married to a biologist and he manages a small hotel (ten cabins) outside of “the protected biotope Cerro Cahuí, harmoniously integrated in the humid subtropical forest of northern Petén, on the shores of Lake Petén Itzá,” he explains.

It was after inspecting the empty rooms of the hotel last August (the tourism industry, of course, has been decimated by the pandemic) that he encountered the colorful tarantula documented in this observation.

I entered the apartment where I live inside the hotel. As I opened the door, I moved the curtain and out of the corner of my eye I saw a dark shape near my shoulder. I took a step back and then I saw it. So beautiful, so spectacular, so calm. The tarantula slowly moved through the glass of the wooden door and I ran like crazy looking for my camera to immortalize it. My wife was with me, and we both kept exclaiming, "Wow, what a beauty, what a cute little thing!” 

In the end, the tarantula landed on the ground, and what I did was to pick it up and take it to a safe place, a huge mound of stones that we have at the hotel, where we usually take the spiders and scorpions that guests find in their rooms. All life forms are respected at the hotel.

Recently split from the genus Brachypelma, members of the genus Tliltocatl occur in Mexico and Central America. Like most other New World tarantulas, their abdomens are covered in urticating hairs, which can irritate the skin and eyes when brushed off by the tarantula as a method of self-defense. 

Ricard (above) heard about iNat from his wife’s colleagues, who recommended it to him because he likes photography and nature. I can say that discovering iNaturalist has been one of the best things that has happened to me during this pandemic,” he says.

I am taking very seriously the observation and documentation of every living thing around me, with the humble intention of contributing to citizen science and suddenly helping biologists and scientists with my observations from Petén, Guatemala. Hopefully this is just the beginning.

To conclude I would like to share with you this thought from Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente:

"Man is a poem woven with the mist of dawn, with the color of flowers, with the song of birds, with the howl of the wolf or the roar of the lion. Man will be finished when the vital balance of the planet that supports him is finished. Man must love and respect the Earth, as he loves and respects his own mother".:

(Photo of Ricard by Asgeir Rossebo Almas. Some quotes have been lightly edited.)

- Nearly five years ago, our Observation of the Week was a spider that had been found in someone's ear!

- Check out our recent blog post about @naufalurfi, the top spider identifier in Southeast Asia!

Posted on March 24, 2021 11:37 PM by tiwane tiwane | 2 comments | Leave a comment

March 27, 2021

Software bug (now resolved) could have allowed unauthorized account access

On March 26, 2021, iNaturalist discovered a software bug that could allow some users to access another user’s account via the iPhone app. As of this writing, iNaturalist is aware of only one instance where this unauthorized access has occurred, and has fixed the software bug. While we cannot determine if additional accounts were accessed, we can say which accounts could have potentially been accessed. This includes any iNaturalist accounts that do not have an associated email address, which amounts to less than 2% of total users. Out of an abundance of caution, all potentially affected users have been signed out of their accounts in the iPhone app.

We believe the only personal information that could have been accessed is coordinates of obscured or private observations. The only accounts that could have been accessed did not have email addresses associated with them, so that information could not have been obtained.

However, affected users could have had their account or observations deleted by the unauthorized user. If you think your account has been affected, please contact us at We may be able to recover lost content if your account or observations were deleted as a result, but unfortunately we cannot guarantee this.

We sincerely apologize for this oversight and are committed to ensuring the security of your observations and personal information. As we continue to investigate this issue, we’ll be sure to keep you posted via our blog with any updates. To check if your account was potentially affected, please visit the FAQ below.

Thank you for being a part of the iNaturalist community. We've created a thread in the Forum for discussion if you have any questions.

—The iNaturalist Team


How do I know if my account was potentially affected?

Only iNaturalist users who do not have an email address associated with their account are potentially affected, which may include anyone who created their iNaturalist account using Apple, Facebook, or Google. To check if your account is associated with an email address, please view your account settings. You can also look for any observations associated with your account that you did not take. If you think your account has been affected, please contact us at

Is there evidence of malicious intent?

No. The one incident we are aware of was self-reported and unauthorized access to another user’s account was obtained inadvertently. As of this writing, we do not have evidence of any other incidents of unauthorized access.

What kind of personal information could have been accessible before the software bug was fixed?

We believe the only personal information that could have been accessible to an unauthorized user is the coordinates of obscured or private observations. It is also possible that past observations or the account itself could have been deleted.

What can I do if I think someone has obtained unauthorized access to my account?

If you think someone has obtained unauthorized access to your account, please contact us at

Posted on March 27, 2021 02:05 AM by kueda kueda

March 29, 2021

Welcome, iNaturalist Greece! Καλωσόρισες iNaturalist Greece!

Today we officially welcome iNaturalist Greece as the newest member of the iNaturalist Network! iNaturalist GR is a collaboration with the non-profit, non­governmental organization iSea and the Goulandris Natural History Museum (GNHM).

Σήμερα καλωσορίζουμε επισήμως το iNaturalist Greece ως το νεότερο μέλος του δικτύου iNaturalist! Το iNaturalistGR αποτελεί μια συνεργασία της Περιβαλλοντικής Οργάνωσης iSea και του Μουσείου Φυσικής Ιστορίας Γουλανδρή.

iSea was founded in 2016, in Thessaloniki, with the aim to preserve, protect, and restore the precious heritage of the aquatic environment using a variety of tools ranging from scientific research to citizen science and environmental awareness. The Goulandris Natural History Museum was established in 1964, in Athens, and it is a non-profit institution dedicated to the research, environmental education and public awareness. Its branch, the Greek Biotope Wetland Centre (EKBY), established in 1991 in Thessaloniki, is also involved in research and education, as well as in the protection, conservation and management of the natural environment.

Η iSea ιδρύθηκε το 2016 στη Θεσσαλονίκη, με στόχο τη διατήρηση, προστασία, και αποκατάσταση των υδάτινων οικοσυστημάτων, αλλά και της χλωρίδας και πανίδας που διαβιούν σε αυτά, χρησιμοποιώντας ως βασικά εργαλεία την επιστημονική έρευνα, την επιστήμη των πολιτών και την περιβαλλοντική εκπαίδευση κι ευαισθητοποίηση. To Μουσείο Γουλανδρή Φυσικής Ιστορίας ιδρύθηκε το 1964 στην Αθήνα, και είναι ένα κοινωφελές ίδρυμα, αφιερωμένο στην έρευνα και την περιβαλλοντική εκπαίδευση και ενημέρωση. Το παράρτημά του, το Ελληνικό Κέντρο Βιοτόπων Υγροτόπων (EKBY), το οποίο ιδρύθηκε το 1991 στη Θεσσαλονίκη, ασχολείται επίσης με την έρευνα και την εκπαίδευση, καθώς και με την προστασία, διατήρηση και διαχείριση του φυσικού περιβάλλοντος.

Greece is a nation including approximately 6,000 islands and islets with an important relationship with the sea. For this reason, iNaturalistGR has selected a beloved and iconic marine animal for its logo: the charismatic common dolphin . The dolphin is Greece’s national animal and rightfully so, as its existence is interwoven with Greek societies since ancient times. Unfortunately, the Mediterranean population of Delphinus delphis is classified as Endangered by the IUCN; this shows that this dolphin is not so common anymore as it is threatened by fishing bycatch, prey depletion, marine pollution, underwater noise, and habitat loss. The Delphinus delphis is one of the smallest dolphins in existence. It has a slender body, a dark back and a characteristic yellowish pattern on the sides of its body.

Η Ελλάδα είναι μια χώρα που περιλαμβάνει περίπου 6.000 νησιά και νησίδες και είναι άρρηκτα συνδεδεμένη με τη θάλασσα. Για το λόγο αυτόν, το iNaturalistGR επέλεξε ένα αγαπημένο κι εμβληματικό θαλάσσιο θηλαστικό για λογότυπό του: το χαρισματικό κοινό δελφίνι . Το δελφίνι δικαίως αποτελεί εθνικό ζώο της Ελλάδας, καθώς η ύπαρξη του είναι συνυφασμένη με τις ελληνικές κοινωνίες από αρχαιοτάτων χρόνων. Δυστυχώς, ο Μεσογειακός πληθυσμός του είδους Delphinus delphis έχει χαρακτηριστεί ως «Κινδυνεύων» από την IUCN υποδεικνύοντας ότι το δελφίνι αυτό δεν είναι πια και τόσο κοινό καθότι απειλείται από την παρεμπίπτουσα αλιεία, τη μείωση της τροφής του, τη θαλάσσια ρύπανση, την υποβρύχια ηχορύπανση και την υποβάθμιση των ενδιαιτημάτων του. Το Delphinus delphis είναι ένα από τα μικρότερα δελφίνια που υπάρχουν σήμερα. Διαθέτει λεπτό σώμα με σκούρη μαύρη ράχη κι ένα χαρακτηριστικό κιτρινωπό σχέδιο στις δυο πλευρές του σώματός του.

The iNaturalist community in Greece has been growing rapidly over the last four years. Currently, there are over 140,000 observations in Greece, made by almost 5,000 observers. Citizen scientists and researchers in Greece who use iNaturalist are motivated by their love of nature and their interest to explore and learn more about the country’s rich biodiversity. You can read more about earlier activity trends in Greece in the iNaturalist World Tour post from July 2019. Dimitra Katsada, @dkats, from iSea’s team, is the primary point of contact for iNaturalistGR.

Η κοινότητα του iNaturalist στην Ελλάδα αναπτύσσεται ραγδαία τα τελευταία τέσσερα χρόνια. Σήμερα έχουν καταγραφεί περισσότερες από 140.000 παρατηρήσεις στην Ελλάδα από σχεδόν 5.000 πολίτες. Ερευνητές και επιστήμονες πολίτες στην Ελλάδα, οι οποίοι χρησιμοποιούν το iNaturalist, έχουν ως κίνητρο την αγάπη τους για τη φύση και το ενδιαφέρον τους να εξερευνήσουν και να μάθουν περισσότερα για την πλούσια βιοποικιλότητα της χώρας. Μπορείτε να διαβάσετε περισσότερα για την έως τώρα δραστηριότητα στην Ελλάδα στη δημοσίευση του iNaturalist World Tour από τον Ιούλιο του 2019. Η Δήμητρα Κατσάδα, @dkats, από την ομάδα της iSea, αποτελεί το βασικό άτομο επικοινωνίας για το iNaturalistGR.

We would like to invite anyone from Greece to affiliate their account with iNaturalistGR!

Προσκαλούμε όλους τους χρήστες από την Ελλάδα να συνδέσουν τους λογαριασμούς τους με το iNaturalistGR!

About the iNaturalist Network
Σχετικά με το Δίκτυο του iNaturalist

The iNaturalist Network now has 13 nationally-focused sites that are fully connected and interoperable with the global iNaturalist site. The sites are: Naturalista Mexico, iNaturalist Canada, iNaturalist New Zealand (formerly NatureWatchNZ), Naturalista Colombia, BioDiversity4All (Portugal), iNaturalist Panama, iNaturalist Ecuador, iNaturalist Australia, ArgentiNat (Argentina), iNaturalist Israel, iNaturalist Finland, iNaturalist Chile, and now iNaturalist Greece. More will be announced in the coming weeks. Any iNaturalist user can log in on any of the sites using their same credentials and will see the same notifications.

Το Δίκτυο του iNaturalist απαριθμεί σήμερα 13 εθνικού επιπέδου ιστοτόπους οι οποίοι είναι πλήρως συνδεδεμένοι και διαλειτουργικοί με τον παγκόσμιο ιστότοπο του iNaturalist. Αυτοί είναι: Naturalista Mexico, iNaturalist Canada, iNaturalist New Zealand (προηγουμένως NatureWatchNZ), Naturalista Colombia, BioDiversity4All (Πορτογαλία), iNaturalist Panama, iNaturalist Ecuador, iNaturalist Australia, ArgentiNat (Αργεντινή), iNaturalist Israel, iNaturalist Finland, iNaturalist Chile και πλέον iNaturalist Greece. Περισσότερες πληροφορίες θα ανακοινωθούν μέσα στις ερχόμενες εβδομάδες. Κάθε χρήστης του iNaturalist μπορεί να συνδεθεί σε οποιονδήποτε από αυτούς τους ιστοτόπους χρησιμοποιώντας τα στοιχεία του.

The iNaturalist Network model allows for localizing the iNaturalist experience to better support communities on a national scale and local leadership in the movement, without splitting the community into isolated, national sites. The iNaturalist team is grateful to the outreach, training, translations, and user support carried out through the efforts of the iNaturalist Network member institutions.

Το μοντέλο του Δικτύου iNaturalist δίνει τη δυνατότητα της τοπικοποίησης της εμπειρίας του iNaturalist, ώστε να στηρίζει καλύτερα τις κοινότητές του και την τοπική ηγεσία τους, χωρίς να περιορίζει την παγκόσμια κοινότητα διαχωρίζοντας την σε τοπικά τμήματα. Η ομάδα του iNaturalist είναι ευγνώμων για τη γνωστοποίηση, την εκπαίδευση, τις μεταφράσεις και την υποστήριξη των χρηστών, που πραγματοποιούνται μέσα από τις προσπάθειες των μελών του Δικτύου του.

Posted on March 29, 2021 03:11 AM by carrieseltzer carrieseltzer | 13 comments | Leave a comment

March 31, 2021

A South African Botanist Photographs a Leaping Dolphin - Observation of the Week, 3/30/21

Our Observation of the Week is this Heaviside's Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus heavisidii), seen off of South Africa by @nicky!

Nicola Jane van Berkel (“Nicky”) grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and has always loved nature. “As a child I picked flowers wherever I could,” she recalls,

These got spread out on the dining room table to see how many different ones I had collected on an outing. I also tried to grow cuttings and was fascinated by the roots growing from the ends of African Violet leaves perched on the edges of jam jars on my windowsill, next to sprouting avocado pips suspended above water. My father gave me charge of a flowerbed in our garden.  Into this I planted all sorts of cuttings begged from family and friends, some survived, many died. One highlight of my childhood was a trip to Namaqualand with my grandmother.

That passion for plants was still there when she and her husband Fred lived in Namaqualand and Namibia. She took nature photos (on slide film!) and collected specimens for the Compton Herbarium, which brought her in contact with botantists from all over the world. After several years of correspondence work, she eventually earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Botany and Geography through UNISA

A few weeks ago Nicky accompanied her granddaughters and family on the Jolly Roger Pirate Boat out of Cape Town, which is where she photographed the leaping Heaviside’s Dolphin you see above. “The dolphins followed us playing in the waves,” she recalls, 

[and] my granddaughters loved watching the dolphins, waiting to see if they could spot them when they surfaced. I did not know whether I had managed to photograph any of them until I downloaded my pictures onto my computer.  There were quite a few pictures of only sea! I did not know that we had been in the company of a Near Threatened species until my pictures were identified on iNaturalist! This was one of the many occasions that I have become aware that something I photographed was something special as a result of this wonderful program.

As Nicky mentioned, Heaviside’s Dolphins are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN, which among other threats says they’re “one of the cetacean species most at risk from large perturbations associated with global climate change.” These small (less than 2 meters in length) dolphins range from the Cape Peninsula north to southern Angola and their main prey are juvenile hake.

Soon after she and her husband retired and moved to Brenton-on-Sea, Nicky (above, on the Jolly Roger) joined the Outramps, which is a branch of CREW (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers), and monitors plants in the Southern Cape. CREW members were encouraged by SANBI to record their findings to iSpot and she then migrated to iNat along with much of the southern African community several years ago. Her 30,000 plus observations span over twenty years of photography, and she says

I feel that it is particularly important to record as much as we can of the organisms in our natural environment, which is rapidly eroding, so that future generations know what was here. iNaturalist is a great way to share these records. It is also an excellent platform to get identifications. I am so grateful to all the experts that help with identification of my numerous postings. Even though my library is extensive, there is a lot it does not cover, for example - dolphins!

Photo of Nicky was taken by her husband, Ferdinand van Berkel.

Posted on March 31, 2021 05:02 AM by tiwane tiwane | 17 comments | Leave a comment