Observation of the Week, 2/10/16

This Giraffe Weevil seen by nlblock in Madagascar is our Observation of the Week!

When recalling his family’s road trips to places like Yosemite National Park and the Grand Canyon, Nick Block (@nlblock) says “I don’t know why, but I always wanted to put a name on everything I saw.” With some field guides and a cheap pair of binoculars as his companions, he became hooked on birding as a young teenager, especially after attending a ranger’s talk about birding at Big Bend National Park: “I had no idea so many people shared my interests! And listing! Making the interest into a bit of a competition sent me over the edge, and I've been a hardcore birder ever since.”

As a grad student Nick studied birds (of course), and his interest in avian phylogenetics and speciation took him to Madagascar on a couple of occasions. His focus on research took up most of his time there, but on his last morning in Ranomafana National Park he asked Haja (a guide) if it was possible to see a Giraffe Weevil and a Mantella frog - two iconic Madagascar animals. “Of course!” was the response. They went to a well-known tree by the visitor center and “in no time at all, Haja had located a male weevil. What an amazing creature!” Male Giraffe Weevils use their long necks (which are 2-3 times longer than the necks of females) for fighting over mates. After mating, a female Giraffe Weevils will fold a leaf into an elaborate cigar-shaped pouch into which she lays a single egg. She’ll then bite the leaf off the tree, where it will fall to the forest floor and be used as food for the larva.

And yes, and not too much later Haja was able to find Nick a Mantella frog:

Nick only found out about iNaturalist last year, from birder Jennifer Rycenga (@gyrrlfalcon) and says “the ability to contribute to a citizen science database and keep track of my life lists is a win-win combination that I couldn't pass up.” Now an Assistant Professor of Biology at Stonehill College, Nick used iNaturalist to conduct a campus-wide BioBlitz last fall and hopes to incorporate it into introductory biology classes, having students document the campus’s biodiversity throughout the year. “I've been very inspired by the teaching examples on iNaturalist's website,” he says, “I think iNaturalist is the perfect tool to help our students become more aware of the amazing natural world around them!”

And while he “slowly” uploads his past observations onto iNaturalist, Nick says using the site is expanding his interest and knowledge of the natural world beyond his favorite taxa of birds, butterflies, and odonates. He contributes identifications to the site and says “ I’ve probably spent way more time than I should have perusing the ID help sections.” He’s even traded up his cell phone: “I've held onto my old flip phone for ages and ages, but the desire to have an omnipresent camera so that I could document things for iNat finally won me over. I'm no longer in the dark ages. Thanks, iNat. :-)”

- by Tony Iwane


Great footage of male Giraffe Weevils fighting and a female making her leaf pouch.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, February 18, 2016 06:14 PM

Comments

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Sorry for the late publishing date on this one - enjoy!

Posted by tiwane almost 3 years ago (Flag)
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Thanks for the shout-out, @nlblock ! I am honored to be a conduit for iNat addiction!

Posted by gyrrlfalcon almost 2 years ago (Flag)

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