This is a spin-off of a related discussion elsewhere on the Forum regarding how to search for taxa with no observations. I made the wild assertion that most/all common, widespread, and identifiable taxa on all major continents are now likely to have one or more observations. So this is a request to prove me wrong and list animals or plants that have yet to be documented on iNat. Let’s start with the most noticeable taxa:
What are the most widespread mammals or birds without an iNat observation?
Is there any flowering plant distributed in a well-populated country or countries (and is identifiable to species) which has been missed?
As I remarked elsewhere, accessibility and identifiability enter into this equation, so let’s skip over any difficult ID challenges, cryptic species, poorly studied taxa, deep sea taxa, stuff only observed with a microscope, etc. Perhaps this would be a useful criterion: IF the animal or plant is in a published field guide, but we’ve missed it so far, list it here. (The mycologists and bacteriologists among you can offer up your own “missing taxa” quiz.)
We recently analyzed snake species for exactly this question. Both iNat and described snake diversity are growing so fast that the paper is already out-of-date, but the proportion today (11 Nov 2021) is 2571/3956 (64.98%) of snake species with at least 1 iNat observation (up from 2273/3879; 58.59% reported the paper, analysis conducted using GBIF/iNat export from 6 Feb 2021).
Of the snake species still missing from iNat today, there are 11 with the geographic ranges >1 million km2 (down from 13 when the analysis was done). Three are South American (Amazon) and the other eight are African. Notable are:
- Bouet’s Wormsnake, Myriopholis boueti, a blindsnake found throughout much of the Sahel (>4 million km2)
- Savanna Lesser Filesnake, Gonionotophis grantii, a nocturnal frog-eating snake from coastal western Africa (3.3 million km2)
- Hughes’ Greensnake, Philothamnus hughesi, a diurnal, arboreal snake from the Congo River basin (2.1 million km2)
Of course snakes are not as conspicuous as most mammals or birds, but we’ve got a long way to go to reach 100% coverage in iNat.
The Life (Trichomycterus punctulatus) one of the most common fish in Peru, which I was very surprised to find only 1 observation (mine). Same happens with Bothrops barnetti and Boerhavia verbenacea.
Althrough there are many observations now, until recently I was the only observer of Pseudogynoxys cordifolia, a species distributed from the southernmost tip of Ecuador all the way down to the Atacama Desert. It’s a very conspicuous vine, not only by it’s color and shape, but because of its smell (it smells wonderful)
Same with Acmella brachyglossa which is practically a weed here.
P.D, please help me push this obs. to the correct ID: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?ident_taxon_id_exclusive=79047,1232469&place_id=any&verifiable=any
I suspect a lot of South American species need to be documented, especially fish.
Yes, fish of the Amazon are a complicated subject. There is a biologist studying fish in the Peruvian coast but he hadn’t run into this fish before which is really strange.
I don’t know that they qualify as readily identifiable, but there are a number of minnows still missing from iNaturalist that range across several US states and into Canada. Sicklefin Chub, Sturgeon Chub, and Western Silvery Minnow come to mind. That list is a lot shorter than it used to be, however.
I suspect many widespread species in Middle East and in North Africa doesn’t have any observations, Gazella leptoceros is endangered, but still it’s a gazelle, so it’s not on iNat only because human factor.
There are so many here in the Middle East not observed yet. Most of my observations are new for Inat, though of course all are insects, so not exactly conspicuous. But the Arabian Leopard still has no observations.
Euxoa churchillensis, although it is not what I would call common.
I started the aforementioned related discussion because I had been surprised when my recent observation of Mediodactylus bartoni proved to be the first of the species on iNat. An easily identifiable gecko distributed across Crete where, admittedly, it is quite uncommon and a bunch of, admittedly, mostly rarely visited nearby islets, I was quite surprised to find no records.
I have since, somewhat unsystematically though, searched to see what else might as yet be undocumented, have not managed to find any other species whose absence has left me equally taken aback.
Check which cave species e.g. insects there’re, I’m sure there’ll be some endemics or just undocumented species, as cave fauna isn’t that well represented on iNat.
I don’t want this discussion or the suggestions to get too crazy. As I described above, I’m asking about WIDESPREAD MAMMAL or BIRD species or perhaps other CONSPICUOUS vertebrates or invertebrates.
@amdurso’s analysis of snake species offers an important update on a group that is in large part less than conspicuous, but examples like Hughes’ Greensnake certainly fit the bill here. Fish (fresh or saltwater) are probably the biggest vertebrate group needing attention, but again, from an everyday perspective, most of them are not CONSPICUOUS. Cave species are beyond the scope of this thread, particularly cave invertebrates, but I’d be interested to hear what common bat species are missing.
@marina_gorbunova’s indication that the Middle East and North Africa probably have a lot of missing species begins to get at the heart of the issue: coverage of observers and the availability of the iNaturalist platform.
@mamestraconfigurata, like you, I pine for more moth species to be uploaded to iNat but let’s leave them for a different thread. ;-)
Widespread and big species already on iNat, everything else is either not widespread or not big, number of observers of course correlates with number of species.
It’s fairly common for galls to be easily identifiable with a few pieces of non-specialist info (host plant, etc) but have no or almost no observations on iNat. Many described oak galls in Mexico eg would fall into this category but plenty in the US southwest and a few elsewhere too. A few Florida endemic hickory galls should be easily to ID but we haven’t had an observer who knows to look for them happen to be in the narrow range they occur yet.
I had another look at our snakes dataset for species that I would consider to be conspicuous (for a snake). I noticed that only three of the six species in the genus Cubophis have iNat records, despite the fact that they are diurnal, medium-sized, and occur on Caribbean islands that are regularly visited by tourists (two of the missing species are found in the Cayman Islands and the third on Little Swan Island off the coast of Honduras, which despite being uninhabited is a fishing and diving destination).
Another very large (>4’), diurnal snake with no iNat records is the Margarita Indigo Snake (Drymarchon margaritae), endemic to the Margarita Islands off the coast of Venezuela. It’s apparently known from only one museum specimen, but probably there has been little effort to search for and document it. Neither this species nor Cubophis are widespread however.
Two somewhat widespread snake species also caught my attention. One is the Southwestern Forest Marsh Snake (Natriciteres bipostocularis), a small watersnake that is probably relatively common, potentially even abundant, in the right habitat but is only found in northern Zambia, southern DRC and eastern Angola. The other three species in the genus also have relatively few records even though their ecology is probably pretty similar to North American Nerodia, which are some of the most commonly-reported snakes in iNat (Nerodia sipedon is the second-most reported snake species globally, even though its range is only 4x larger than Natriciteres bipostocularis).
The other is the Southern Burmese Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis walli) which is medium-sized, diurnal, arboreal, and endemic to the southern lowlands of Myanmar. A species of snake with a similar range size and somewhat similar ecology is Zamenis situla occurring in southeastern Europe with 118 records.
As for large, conspicuous, widespread mammals and birds, I couldn’t find any with 0 records that haven’t already been mentioned by someone else. eBird has a list of species missing from their database, almost all of which I assume are also missing from iNat. They have some good analysis of which species are most likely to be documented next and what factors have resulted in them going undocumented for so long.
The Kordofan Lark is a common bird with a huge range across northern Africa but does not have any iNat observations. It looks like it doesn’t have any reports in eBird, either.
no photos of it too it looks like
I have read there are over 100 Verbascum flowering plant species in Turkey, yet very few of them are ID’d on observations, usually by one photographer, and most of the IDs in Turkey seem to represent the iNat suggestions and Verbascum checklists, which are mainly Western European species (and limited to less than a dozen species). The good news is if the suggestions are improved, the observations are probably there, just under the wrong id.
There have to be many examples of this. One big factor is access in areas where an animal is endemic but iNaturalist isn’t. In what strikes me as the height of ridiculousness, I’m the top observer of the Earth’s smallest bird: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/97569077. That is a travesty. I’m a tourist who farted around there for a week once. The top observer should be a Cuban, not me. I’ll bet the same effect is apparent in the North Korean fauna. It will correct over time.
Speaking of Cuba, I ran a filtered search for Reptiles listed in Cuba, filtered for endemics and not observed. Came up with ten. I found an even larger number of mammals. Now, granted, these aren’t the kinds of things that are going to stop traffic, but they’re not miniscule.