December 15, 2017

Observation of the Week, 12/15/17

Our Observation of the Week is is Rhiostoma snail, seen in China by ladybird_sunbathing!

Yes, it’s a snail with a snorkel! iNaturalist user Yang Yi (@ladybird_sunbathing) found it in the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) this past September. The botanical garden is located in extreme southwestern China, and he was there with a group supervised by Dr Li Shuqiang of the Beijing Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The group’s focus was on collecting spiders, and Yang Yi tells me “there are approximately 800 spider species in 1125-ha XTBG, with an increase of 100 new species every year at present,” so there was a lot of work for them to do!

In addition to spiders, Yang Yi also photographed other organisms, like this beautiful green Cyclophorid snail and this “horrifying” (to quote Yang Yi) caterpillar. He found the Rhiostoma snail in the Green Stone Forest area of the park, “an area of tropical karst landform, topographically fluctuated, where rain forest and limestone forest coexist.” Although he had no idea what kind of snail it was - “those snails all looked the same to my untrained eyes” - he says “I knew @susanhewitt and @jkfoon would identify the snails.” iNat’s robust mollusk-loving community came through again, and both Susan Hewitt and JK Foon (also a featured player in the rediscovery of a snail via iNat) did come through with an ID (it’s the first Rhiostoma on iNaturalist!) and some encouraging comments.

As JK Foon commented, it’s speculated “that [the snorkel’] function could be to facilitate the snail's respiration while minimising water loss when the snail retract into its shell and seal itself up inside during long drought periods in monsoonal rainforests.” And what’s even cooler is that these snails are more closely related to marine snails (operculates) than your common land snails (pulmonates).  Amateur malacologist Phil Liff-Grieff (@pliffgrieff) tells me, “One way to see this is the location of the eyes; pulmonate eyes are at the end of their tentacles/eyestalks and operculates (both terrestrial and many marine) are at the base of the tentacles.”

As a child, Yang Yi (pictured above) was interested in nature, and devoured nature documentaries and TV shows such as those by Steve Irwin, but says

I grew up in a conventional culture, so my hobby ([thought to be] useless and ridiculous) wasn't properly supported and guided...I believe exposure to nature and cultivation of its aesthetic from early age can contribute to a lasting effect on one's development beyond measure

Yang Yi graduated from the School of Microelectronics at Fudan University this past June, and he’s now thinking about a career in conservation. “I'll soon go for an internship on bats across Yunnan Province and Southeast Asia, administratively based in Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG), meanwhile look for a possible postgraduate opportunity.”

The iNaturalist community in East Asia continues to grow, and when talking about why he uses iNat, Yang Yi quotes Hong Kong stalwart @sunnetchan:

As @sunnetchan points out, a drive lies in the obligation to record as many graceful life as possible before they are wiped out due to our neglect: pollution, commercial exploitation, climate change… There are never enough ecologists, so the data from citizen scientists matter.

- by Tony Iwane (Note that some of Yang Yi's quotes have been lightly edited.)

Posted on December 15, 2017 09:36 PM by tiwane tiwane | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 11, 2017

Observation of the Week, 12/10/17

Our Observation of the Week is this pair of dueling arboreal salamanders, seen in California by plainsashchalaca!

“My little sister actually discovered the salamander fight,” says Sasha Robinson (@plainsashchalaca). “She came back in the house to tell me that ‘two of those speckly salamanders’ were on the porch eating each other and I ran outside to check it out.”

Just like his sister, Sasha himself was into nature when he was a child. “Some of my first and most vivid memories are of camping near Yosemite with my family,” he recalls “When I was around 10 years old, I got a pair of binoculars and started putting names to the birds I saw flitting around my backyard. I think birding kind of showed me how much fun using a field guide was and I was soon buying plant guides, herp guides, and more!”

Sasha obtained a degree in Wildlife Conservation and Management at California’s Humboldt State University, where he herped, tidepooled, and mushroomed. “While my main focus remained on the flying dinosaurs that had kindled my passion, I continued to develop a healthy appreciation for all the things I found ‘along the way’.”

But back to the salamanders.

“I have know idea how long these two apparently male arboreal salamanders had been fighting, but it had been raining all night which must have bumped up the ‘mander activity,” says Sasha. He continued to check-in on them as the morning went on, “only to find them still at it and slowly dragging each other into the bushes where I lost them. Both were still living when I last observed them although one had a nasty gash on his head.”

Members of the Plethodontidae, or lungless salamander family, arboreal salamanders are a common sighting along the western coast of North America and are even found (natively) on the tiny Farallon Islands off of San Francisco. They’re known to sometimes inflict painful bites on humans with their large jaw muscles and teeth and according to California Herps, “Both males and females are agressively [sic] territorial. Individuals covered with scars (probably from fighting) are often found, and captives kept together often bite the other salamander's tail.”

Currently, Sasha has “taken up the ‘bird-bumming’ lifestyle (as a traveling avian field technician), gaining ever more field experience while honing in on where I want to focus my career.” He’s studied declining grassland songbirds for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and banded birds in the Cordillera de Talamanca highlands for Costa Rica Bird Observatories (where he was in the photo below, banding a slaty-tailed trogon).

He uses iNaturalist “to explore my interests in other taxa, most frequently: lepidopterans, plants, fungi, herps, and nudibranchs.

For example, I brought a moth light during a recent 5 month stint spent working in Costa Rica. I took hundreds of photos of moths, most of which I could only tentatively ID to family. When I got back to the states I started mass-uploading them to iNat and nearly all of them have now been identified by others! Incredible! Thanks iNaturalist!

- by Tony Iwane

- No arboreal salamander fights on YouTube, but these fire salamanders in Belgium certainly go at each other with some intensity.

- True to their common name, arboreal salamanders do climb up trees, using their feet and prehensile tail. Check out the curled tail in this observation.

Posted on December 11, 2017 02:14 AM by tiwane tiwane | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 09, 2017

iNaturalist in Chile / iNaturalist en Chile

A few months ago, @loarie wrote a blog post about how international iNaturalist is. Piggybacking on that, we thought it might be interesting to do a deep dive into each country. And with spring and summer underway in the southern hemisphere, here's a look at some of the numbers for Chile! Below is a map of Chile which shows the number of observations spread out regionally. In each region, the top observer is shown.
Hace unos meses, @loarie escribió una entrada de blog de que tan internacional es iNaturalist. Llevando a cuestas eso, pensamos que sería interesante ser una inmersión profunda en cada país. Y con la primavera y verano en marcha en el hemisferio sur, aquí están unos números para Chile. A continuación se muestra un mapa de Chile y los números de observaciones distribuidas regionalmente. En cada región, se muestra el observador superior.

And here's a chart of observations per month, showing iNat's growth in Chile. Mouse over to see the top observer for each month.
Y aquí hay una tabla de observaciones por mes, ensenando el crecimiento de iNat en Chile. Pase el ratón sobre el mapa para ver el observador superior de cada mes.

Finally, below is a breakdown of the groups of species that people are observing within Chile. The top identifier for each group based on the number of identifications on these observations is also shown.
Finalmente, a continuación se muestra un desglose de los grupos de especies que las personas están observando dentro de Chile. El identificador superior para cada grupo esta basado en el número de identificaciones en estas observaciones también.

We reached out to some of the top observers in Chile to see what they had to say about iNaturalist and how they use it. Like all iNat users, they each have their own approach. It will be exciting to see the community grow!
Nos pusimos en contacto con algunos de los principales observadores en Chile para ver qué tenían que decir sobre iNaturalist y como les gusta usarlo. Igual que todos los usuarios de iNat, cada uno tiene su propio enfoque. ¡Será emocionante ver crecer la comunidad!

User @archiverde originally learned about iNaturalist when he was living in Italy, where iNaturalist has a fairly robust community. He says “iNat is my only tool to register my near 1000 observations around the world…[and it] is a part of my life since i discovered it some years ago.” Since he moved to Argentina in 2014, archiverde says “I have tried to spread iNat among my friends…[I] hope our community could grow quickly, even in countries - like Chile - where wildlife is always under threat.”
El usuario @archiverde originalmente aprendió sobre iNaturalist cuando estaba viviendo en Italia, donde iNaturalist tiene una comunidad bastante sólida. El dice –iNat es mi única herramienta para registrar cerca de 1000 de mis observaciones de todo el mundo…y es parte de mi vida desde que lo descubrí hace algunos años-. Desde que se mudó Argentina en 2014, @archiverde dice – He estado de extender iNat entre mis amigos…[Yo] espero que nuestra comunidad crezca rápidamente, incluso en países como Chile, donde la vida silvestre siempre está amenazada-.

@jorgeeduardo uses iNaturalist as part of his work, surveying wildlife for an the environmental services company Patagua Ltda, which received a grant from the Social Innovation Fund of CORFO. He presented his survey data at the Chilean Congress of Ornithology 2017.
@jorgeeduardo usa iNaturalist como parte de su trabajo, estudiando la vida silvestre para una compañía de servicios ambientales, Patagua Ltda, que recibió una subvención del Fondo de Innovación Social de CORFO. Presentó los datos de su encuesta en el Congreso Chileno de Ornitología 2017.

And @palomanunezfarias is an iNaturalist advocate, who explains “in Chile [iNaturalist] is a very recent and dynamic community, in only 2016 to 2017 the national biodiversity projects doubled in number.” She works for the CEAZA scientific center, and says “Together with @salvanaturaleza, @josecortezecheverria we are sharing the naturalist spirit, citizen science and nature awareness with visitors to the Fray Jorge National Park (FJNP)...[which] was established as a World Biosphere Reserve in 1977 and it was the first Starlight Reserve in South America, which was designated in 2013.”
Y @palomanunezfarias quien es un defensor de iNaturalist explica que –en Chile [iNaturalist] es una comunidad muy reciente y dinámica, en 2016-2017 los proyectos nacionales de biodiversidad se duplicaron en número-. Ella trabaja para el centro científico CEAZA, y dice – Juntos con @salvanaturaleza @josecortezecheverria compartimos el espíritu naturalista, la ciencia ciudadana y la conciencia de la naturaleza con los visitantes del Parque Nacional Fray Jorge (FJNP)…[que] fue establecido como Reserva Mundial de la Biosfera en 1977 y fue el primer Starlight Reserve en Sudamérica, que fue designada en 2013-.

Paloma explains that there is a small fishing village, named El Toro, which has a school (@escuelacaletaeltoro) “where you can find 19 curious children and who are technology fans."
Paloma explica que hay un pueblo pequeño de pescadores, llamado El Toro, que tiene una escuela (@escuelacaletaeltoro) – donde puedes encontrar 19 niños curiosos y que son fanáticos de la tecnología-.

The Centro Cultural Libertad and the CEAZA Scientific Research Center are developing an outreach program to teach schoolchildren how to protect their natural heritage, which includes taking pictures of the local flora and fauna to upload to the INAT Biodiversity of Arid Zones project.
El Centro Cultural Libertad y el Centro de Investigación Científica CEAZA están desarrollando un programa de alcance para enseñar a los estudiantes a proteger su patrimonio natural, que incluye tomar fotografías de la flora y la fauna locales para subir al proyecto INAT Biodiversidad de Zonas Áridas.

Here are some of the photos Paloma sent us. First is a photo of the children of @escuelacaletaeltoro, and below them are @palomanunezfarias, @josecortezecheverria, and @salvanaturalista in the field.
Estas son algunas de las fotos que Paloma nos envió. Primero hay una foto de los niños @escuelacaletaeltoro y debajo de ellos están @palomanunezfarias, @josecortezecheverria, and @salvanaturalista en el campo.

Paloma also recently visited New Zealand, where she says “I was even able to meet @tangatawhenua [with] whom my daughter and I stayed with], and naturalized on the north coast of NZ, it was very fun.” Paloma was surprised and inspired by the impressive iNaturalist community there that identified her observations within hours; she hopes that Chile will have a similar iNat community in the near future. “We need to disseminate the platform more among [Chile’s] national researchers so that they become identifiers and so it can be much more interactive, since today there are many observations of ordinary people who do not have identification.”
Paloma también visitó recientemente Nueva Zelanda, donde dice –Pude conocer a @tangatawhenua [con] quien nos quedamos mi hija y yo y naturalizamos en la costa norte de Nueva Zelanda, fue muy divertido-. Paloma se sorprendió y fue inspirada por la impresionante comunidad de iNaturalist que identificó sus observaciones en cuestión de horas; ella espera que Chile tenga una comunidad de iNat similar en el futuro cercano. –Necesitamos diseminar más la plataforma entre los investigadores nacionales [de Chile] para que se conviertan en identificadores y por lo tanto pueda ser más interactivo, ya que hoy en día hay muchas observaciones de personas comunes que no tienen identificación-.

Posted on December 09, 2017 04:14 AM by tiwane tiwane | 2 comments | Leave a comment

December 05, 2017

Vision Suggestion Updates!

We just updated our computer vision-assisted species suggestions! It's been almost six months since we quietly launched the first version, and despite not making much of a hullabaloo about it, you folks definitely noticed, as did the media. One of our favorite parts about our approach to teaching computers to recognize species in images is that our system is constantly learning from the iNat community. If someone chooses a suggestion that ends up being wrong, that turns into new training data, and if someone observes something the system doesn't know about, that turns into new training data too. In June, we released a system trained on iNat photos added up until May 2017. It could identify 17,246 species, and it had the right species in the top ten results ~78% of the time. The system we just released yesterday trained on data through August 2017, and while it's only slightly more accurate (right answer in the top ten ~81% of the time), it knows about 20,217 species, so that's a 2,971 species improvement!

To give you and idea of what's changed, here are some of the most-observed new species the system can recognize:

We were very happy to see a bunch of species from outside our core areas of the North America and New Zealand in there, and we were particularly impressed with Sphenomorphus indicus, a lizard that has experienced a surge in observations this year thanks for iNat folks in Taiwan. A lot of species have years of observations, but only just passed our threshold of having Research Grade observations by ten different people, but that lizard really just became super popular this year. Go lizard.

We also made a slight change to how we use nearby observation data to add suggestions and sort them: we reduced the radius of the search, so hopefully it will make better "nearby" suggestions. It is not excluding suggestions that have not been observed nearby, but that's certainly something we're considering since so many of you have asked for this.

Anyway, a big thanks to all of you for making all of this possible. We couldn't provide this kind of service without all of your hard work making observations and adding identifications.

Posted on December 05, 2017 08:08 PM by kueda kueda | 15 comments | Leave a comment

December 02, 2017

Observation of the Week, 12/2/17

Our Observation of the Week is this North Philippine temple pitviper, seen in Malaysia by @nakarb!

While this blog post is about his beautiful snake photo, Nikolay Vladimirov (nakarb) is, first and foremost, an insect enthusiast and photographer. Inspired by his grandmother, who was an agronomist, Nikolay “walked around the garden, collected insects, and my grandmother told me about them. Later, already at school, I began to collect a collection of insects; I had a lot of books about insects, it was interesting for me to learn something new about them.”

He later became and aquarist, but in 2007 he obtained his first camera, a Canon S3IS, and “ interest in insects resumed on a new level: I began to photograph them.” He eventually upgraded to a DSLR with a macro lens and for eight years has been photographing wildlife.

During this time I already have photos of the most frequent and large species, so now I have to use different methods of collecting and catching insects used in entomology: ground traps, food and light baits, nets, shaking of bushes, search in rotten logs and under bark of trees, collecting of caterpillars, etc. This turned out to be a very interesting activity, and now my photo collection is much larger than the one I collected as a child. Experts from forums,, and now also help me to determine the photographed species.

He photographed the pitviper while on a trip to Borneo with his wife. They spent several days in Bako National Park, “[where] I brought back several thousand photos of insects, spiders, frogs and reptiles.”

[The North Philippine temple pitviper] I noticed quite by accident about in the middle of the 6-km-long ring track Lintang. This was the first snake found by me in the day, before that they were shown us by guides on night excursions around Bako. The snake was very small, about 20 cm, and was sitting on a tree just above eye level, comfortably leaning on a branch. For all the time of photographing (we walked around it for about 20 minutes) the snake behaved completely non-aggressive and did not even change its position.

This behavior is typical for snakes in the temple pitviper (Tropidolaemus) genus. Skilled ambush predators, they are known to stay motionless for long periods of time - allowing them to quickly ambush prey such as rodents, birds, frogs, and lizards, that might pass by. Like other vipers they are venomous and their venom mainly consists of hemotoxins (flesh and blood destroying toxins) rather than neurotoxins. While a fatal envenomation is unlikely, it can’t be excluded as a possibility. And as Nikolay observed, this is not an aggressive snake.

“iNaturalist is a very interesting project,” says Nikolay, above, at Bako National Park. “It makes it very convenient to organize your observations, analyze the distribution of flora and fauna in different geographical areas and communicate with nature lovers around the world. In addition, there is a large number of experts in different groups of animals and plants who are happy to help in determining the results of observations.”

Nikolay has also shared some tips for macrophotography:

  • Do not be afraid to experiment; macrophotography, like photography in general - a very creative process. Learn the experience of other photographers.

  • Do more frames, slightly changing the camera angle. Among them, for sure, there will be good shots. Unnecessary or unsuccessful frames can always be deleted.

  • Photograph an insect from different sides (from above, from the side, a portrait, some characteristic fragments). This will help in determining it.

  • Objects for macro photography are everywhere and always, sometimes in the most unexpected places.

  • Learn the biology and behavior of insects, this will help in their search and photography.

- by Tony Iwane

- You can see Nikolay’s awesome photos on this site.

- Check out these two videos that show off these snakes’ impressive camouflage and zen-like stillness. 

- There are nearly 500 observations from Bako National Park on iNat, take a look at them here.

Posted on December 02, 2017 08:43 PM by tiwane tiwane | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 26, 2017

Observation of the Week, 11/25/17

Our Observation of the Week is this Athoracophorus bitentaculatus leaf-veined slug, seen in New Zealand by @shaun-lee!

An enthusiast who “works on a variety of environmental restoration and education projects” Shaun Lee says his “favourite thing to do is photograph the New Zealand bush at night.”

At night our kiwi and weta come out and the bush really comes alive. In New Zealand we don't really have venomous spiders, there are no snakes or big things with teeth so you can feel quite safe pushing through undergrowth at night.

“[And] gastropods,” says Shaun, “are pretty easy to photograph as they don't scuttle away from my headlamp.” He usually tries to wait until they put their eye stalks back out before photographing them, “but this time I did not which has emphasised the camouflage skills of the slug. I like how you can clearly see the breathing holes on leaf-veined slugs.”

While New Zealand has its share of introduced slugs, all native ones are leaf-veined slugs, members of the family Athoracophoridae. The characteristic leaf-veined patterns on their backs are believed to be for camouflage, and as Shaun points out, the breathing hole is easily seen on their backs. Unlike other slugs, leaf-veined slugs are not considered to be agricultural pests, as they eat mainly algae and fungi. They're nocturnal, but Shaun says they're pretty easy to find - this one was found “only 20 minutes drive from the centre of New Zealand’s biggest city.” In addition to New Zealand, they range through other islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, including New Guinea, Melaneasia, and eastern Australia.

Being an island, New Zealand’s ecosystem is quite fragile, and introduced species have significantly altered it, and continue to do so. Shaun (pictured above) says “the iNaturalist platform is perfect for documenting the spread of invasive species so we can better understand how we are changing our environment. I am very grateful to all the researchers who put so much time into iNaturalist, identifying all the weird things I find and teaching me about the world I live in.”

- by Tony Iwane

- One of Shaun’s projects is Check it out, there’s some cool info and photos/footage of New Zealand’s wildlife.

- Here are the thirteen faved leaf-veined slug observations on iNat. They are stunning creatures.

- New Zealand entomologist and photographer Gil Wizen wrote a nice blog post about leaf-veined slugs.

Posted on November 26, 2017 01:48 AM by tiwane tiwane | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 22, 2017

Snails, SLIME, and Conservation - Oh My!

As Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County malacologist Dr. Jann Vendetti (@jannvendett) says, a snail is “not a panda,” and not really the type of animal one traditionally builds a conservation campaign around, but that’s exactly what’s happening in Southern California right now. The Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned U.S. Fish and Wildlife to list the San Gabriel chestnut snail (Glyptostoma gabrielense - pictured above), which is listed as Imperiled Globally by NatureServe, as an Endangered Species. And because snails and slugs are sensitive to habitat change, Dr. Vendetti says the presence of endemic ones are good indicators, telling us their habitat likely holds many other native and endemic organisms.

As Dr. Vendetti explains in the interview below (which took place in May of 2017), iNaturalist observations (there are currently 43) are just about the only current range data we have for this animal - they were the first recorded sightings in about 70 years. Location data from iNaturalist is what’s being used in the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition - evidence for how critical citizen-based science can be.

These observations are part of the SLIME (Snails and slugs Living In Metropolitan Environments) project on iNaturalist, which was created by Dr. Vendetti and her colleagues to encourage documentation of mollusks in Southern California. One of the main contributors to SLIME is Museum Associate Cedric Lee (@cedric_lee), who has no doubt that “iNaturalist data is going to play a major role in science in the years to come.” Cedric, in fact, uploaded the first Glyptostoma gabrielense snail to iNat, which was identified by Dr. Vendetti. “At the time, I had no knowledge at all regarding snails in general,” he says. “That was a little over 2 years ago. Now, I'm known to some as the ‘snail and slug guy.’ It's surprising how much a single shell can change a person's life. Of course I have iNaturalist and its amazing mollusk community to thank for that.”

If you’ve uploaded a snail or slug observation to iNat, there’s a good chance either Cedric or Susan Hewitt (@susanhewitt) formerly invertzoo) added an identification or comment to it. Susan is a “serious amateur or semi-professional malacologist” and has contributed nearly 40,000 IDs to iNat already, as well as many helpful and encouraging comments to users, and is a great ambassador for these slimy invertebrates.

Mollusks are something that most people don't know much about,” says Susan. “iNaturalist is in the process of changing that I think. Once people discover that someone can put a species ID on the snails, slugs and clams that they find, even if they are just some empty dead shells, then people become more interested in recording them. I see now that if someone is visiting a new area, they will go down onto the beach and not just photograph the birds that are there, but also look down and photograph the shells that have washed up on the sand, or mollusks alive on the rocks.”

As Susan notes, gastropods (snails and slugs) are second only to insects in the number of described species worldwide, and they have powerful effects on the ecosystems in which they reside, so “it is amazing how much excellent work citizen science can do in this respect,” she says. “I have been contributing to iNaturalist since 2014. I am always delighted to see that there are new records of mollusks for me to look at every single day, from all over the world.”

This story, I think, is a great example of how iNaturalist can effect real change, both policy-wise and in the lives of iNaturalist users. Researchers who are encouraging and engaging with amateurs can create a real community of dedicated naturalists, sometimes just through one tiny snail.

- by Tony Iwane. Photo by Cedric Lee, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

- Here’s another video interview with Dr. Vendetti, discussing SLIME.

- Last year a teen iNaturalist user (and her mom) in the San Francisco Bay Area made the first sighting of a nudibranch species (that is native to Asia) in the Eastern Pacific. Here’s our Observation of the Week write-up about the find and a published article about it.

- Susan Hewitt has a great guide for photographing mollusks on her profile page and she appears in a video about love darts.

- The San Gabriel Valley Tribune wrote an article about Glyptostoma gabrielense’s possible affect on a potential housing development. It also includes Cedric Lee’s footage of the snail.

- Check out our other blog posts featuring Dr. Vendetti’s colleagues at NHMLA, Dr. Greg Pauly and Miguel Ordeñana.

Posted on November 22, 2017 10:52 PM by tiwane tiwane | 2 comments | Leave a comment

November 18, 2017

Observation of the Week, 11/18/17

Our Observation of the Week is this fungus growing out of a Euryrus leachii millipede, seen in Ohio by hazelsnail!

hazelsnail remembers “the summer when I was three years old, and I got to experience the emerging of 17-year periodical cicadas. I was obsessed with them, and I have been obsessed with invertebrates ever since.” Now a 17 year-old herself, she’s already taking college courses while still in high school and plans on going into the field of genetics “so that I can continue to learn about [snails, millipedes, isopods, fungi] and continuing to share photos of the species I encounter, and the art I make that is inspired by them, I try to show others the beauty of the small, often overlooked parts of the natural world.”

The photo above, she says, is an example of that.

The species of the millipede in the picture, Euryurus leachii, is found in large numbers throughout the woods around my home. Because of this, it was one of the first millipede species I ever encountered, making it partially responsible for the interest I now have in them. When I discovered the dead millipede with the fungus under a piece of bark, I was very excited. It is always amazing to see the ecosystem in action, and this was a perfect example. Not only that, but it showed a beautiful little interaction between two of the groups I am the most passionate about, so I had to get a picture to share.

So far the iNat community hasn’t been able to identify the fungus beyond being in the Zygote family; some members of the family are parasitic, while others grow on decaying matter. The millipede species is a colorful one (when it’s alive) and like most millipedes is detritivore. According to BugGuide, it’s found almost only under and within rotting logs of non-coniferous trees.

hazelsnail (above, on a trip to Hocking Hills), says that

since joining iNaturalist [earlier this year], my identification skills have greatly improved. I also use observations to know what areas to go to see the species I am interested in when I travel. This is very handy, and has made planning trips much more efficient. Before, I would just stop at random parks and hope for the best, but now when pressed for time, I can know where the target species has been seen, and focus on that specific area. Even though I am not the most talkative person, being able to connect with others who share my interests through iNaturalist has been amazing, and something that does not often happen otherwise. I wish I had discovered it sooner!

- by Tony Iwane

- You can check hazelsnail’s drawings and nature photos on Instagram!

- Like some other millipedes, Euryurus leachii fluoresces under UV light.

Posted on November 18, 2017 07:12 PM by tiwane tiwane | 2 comments | Leave a comment

November 14, 2017

Observation of the Week, 11/14/17

This pair of blackmouth catsharks, seen off of Spain by @gmucientes, is our Observation of the Week!

A marine biologist who’s currently researching the spatial ecology of pelagic sharks, Gonzalo Sandoval is often far away from the mainland while at work, off of the Azores or Cape Verde, so last month’s research excursion just off of northwestern Spain, was a pretty short sojourn for him.

He was conducting a survey about blue sharks, and recalls taht “while waiting for the blue sharks to appear we wondered what shark species live at the very bottom. We were able to capture two Galeus melastomus [blackmouth catsharks] individuals at 700 meters depth.” Gonzalo uses “rod and reel and longliners” to capture sharks for his surveys, and says

juveniles live in shallower waters than adults, this explains why I found these juvenile sharks in not very deep water. Adults can [dive to] 1400m. This shark is abundant in the northeast Atlantic continental slope. It is oviparous and can have several mature eggs in oviduct simultaneously. Despite fishing pressure (by-catch) populations don't seem to decline.”

Named, unsurprisingly, for the black color of its mouth tissue, blackmouth catsharks are generalist feeders, who often swim along the muddy bottoms and use the the ampullae of lorenzini in their large snouts to suss out prey - often crustaceans, fish, and cephalopods. They grow to about 67 cm (26 in) in length, and weigh about 1.4 kg (3.1 lb).

As these juvenile sharks were not a target species for Gonzalo, and were very small, they were let go without being tagged. In addition to blue sharks, he also studies shortfin mako sharks, and says he is “currently conducting a PhD in spatial ecology, feeding and fisheries of the mako. In combination with my academic activity, I regularly get involved in scientific surveys and other research projects as a professional diver or biologist consultant.”

Gonzalo (above, tagging a mako), explains that

since I was a kid, I enjoyed watching animals in their habitats and trying to understand their behaviours. First close from home. Later, on bigger exploration trips across mountains, jungles and the open ocean... I consider myself a passionate life watcher in my free time and a marine biologist at work...iNaturalist is the perfect tool to organise my field data and contribute to the ecological pool knowledge and share these observations with other people interested.

by Tony Iwane

- Here are videos of a tagged mako being released, as well as a group of juvenile blue sharks from Gonzalo’s work. 

- Gonzalo is the co-founder of Ecologia Azul, an association of people dedicated to research, exploration and conservation of nature.

Posted on November 14, 2017 11:31 PM by tiwane tiwane | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 10, 2017

Observation of the Week, 11/9/17

Our (belated) Observation of the Week is the first spotted harlequin snake post to iNaturalist! Seen in South Africa by @alexanderr.

This Observation of the Week is actually for two weeks ago, but observer Alex Rebelo was out in the field and we weren’t able to connect until this week. Growing up “with a botanist as a father and an ecologist as a mother in South Africa,” Alex says he “was out in the field so often and could gain insight from my parents, [so] I became interested in nature.” He earned a Masters of Science in Biology with a special interest in herpetology, and is currently an intern at Bayworld Museum in Port Elizabeth, “mainly to gain experience with Werner Conradie and the herpetology collection. I'm interested in Biogeography and Ecology, not quite sure about Taxonomy yet.”

On a July weekend this year, Alex “decided to go scratch around in a nearby Nature Reserve in Port Elizabeth,” which is where he found the spotted harlequin snake under a rock. “I wasn't expecting to find it and it was a pretty surprise, luckily very chilled out so I could get some pictures.”

Spotted harlequin snakes, which are endemic to southern Africa, are semi-fossorial and love to dig and burrow in soft sand and soil, so looking under rocks is commonly how they’re found. They specialize in eating snakes and small lizards, especially legless skinks. The snakes do possess venom but are not known to be aggressive at all, and humans who have been bitten usually suffer headaches and localized swelling.

“I use Citizen Science to contribute towards Conservation and Science, but also acknowledge its value to education and public interest,” says Alex, above. “I have used Citizen Science distribution data and it is very valuable (for biogeography and climate change monitoring and others), especially in an era when Scientists/taxonomists do not go out into the field and collect specimens. It forms a major part of Red List Assessment criteria, and distribution data is sorely lacking for many species.”

- by Tony Iwane

- Here’s a nice little short video of a spotted harlequin snake in the wild.

- In Afrikaans, it’s called Gespikkelde Harlekynslang.

Posted on November 10, 2017 12:34 AM by tiwane tiwane | 0 comments | Leave a comment