First-for-region observations

During my French Polynesia trip, I made an observation of Mutingia calabura, the only species in the genus Mutingia. It is one of those pantropical weeds that one would expect to find anywhere in the tropics. So imagine my surprise when I looked at the map and found that my observations was the only one in the entire South Pacific. There is one blue square in Hawaii, and you can see that the adjacent continents on both sides are full off them:

Given the number of island groups dotted across the Pacific, I would have expected such a widespread species as this also to be dotted across the Pacific.

I do not believe that Raiatea is the only South Pacific island where this species occurs. That defies reason, considering the pathways by which introduced plants spread. I suspect that the loneliness of my observation is due to two factors:

  • Visitors to the South Pacific have other observation priorities than roadside weeds (for example, there is a plethora of observations of coral reef species), and
  • Few local inhabitants are on iNaturalist.

So, it seems that one way to make a first-for-region observation is to pay attention to something other than the taxa for which people visit the region.

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Ploughing thru many thousands of photos for the City Nature Challenge.
This one was exciting. Firsts all the way.
Meet the Table Mountain strawberry!

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/113720433
Thank you! 53 (and now 64!) people came to meet our strawberry (who is a shiny new spider)

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Surprising to discover a first “macro” moth River Birch Dagger - Acronicta betulae in West Virginia, a species that is reported in all surrounding states. River Birch Dagger (Acronicta betulae) from Greenbrier County, WV, USA on April 30, 2022 at 12:31 AM · iNaturalist

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It’s pretty easy to get a “first for region” observation, or even a “first for iNat” observation, depending on where you are. Working in SE Asia and there having been very few people on iNat here I wound up with a lot of first for both the region and for iNat.

You could do the same in many places in SE Asia, South America, Africa, Central America, Central Asia, the MIddle East, East Asia, and much of Asian Russia.

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It´s actually indeed not a very big deal depending on the region. For example, in Egypt I have over 70 firsts for the country, including such species like Taraxacum, which is for sure as commonly found in Egypt as elsewhere in the world. But photo savy tourists there focus more on flashy marine life then on tiny sea shells and plants on the road side. And many people living there are not all to well into the whole photo and iNat business.

But it´s also possible to get firsts in by iNatters densly populated european countries if your interest is for example in the tiny arthropod world or I guess lichens and other not too popular stuff like that.

That does not mean that my personal firsts don´t have a special place in my heart (and my lists ;-)) and I always am thrilled whenever I can put a new one to my collection :-)
https://www.inaturalist.org/lists/ajott

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You’re totally correct. I’ve had a higher than expected number of first state records for New Mexico in my garden and neighborhood. I also uploaded this bee for the southernmost active record and first in Oaxaca on a culture and food tour https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/95892899

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A first for iNaturalist is of course not necessarily the first ever. You’d have to check other repositories like natural history collections and the literature. But when it is a first, that just highlights the value of iNat as a resource for documenting distribution data.

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Very true, but this post isn’t about “first ever” species observations.

I believe there is already a thread about that specific topic somewhere else in the forum.

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I’ve been involved in some moth identifications that involved range extensions in Canada. One was a very large western extension of an Eastern moth. I can’t remember their names, but a couple of them were Schinia spp. There are large parts of Canada that are not well sampled, and with climate change normally moths with a southerly range may be moving a little north.
I have not seen anything myself, though!

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Now that is something! :+1:

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And a first IDed might also not be the first observed on iNat… for example, when I was living in Ecuador in 2019/2020 I often found some crab spiders that reminded me a lot of some species living in Australia… and no other spiders of that genus had been recorded for South America so far on iNat. … I was very insecure about my ID because of that, but am much more relaxed now… Now, just a few years later it´s well over 100 that were IDed now all over South America, some where on iNat well before my observations were added… but mine where the first one IDed for the continent :-) It was fascinating to watch.

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My observation of Green Swordtail is the first on inat from North Queensland. This is a little concerning, as it is an invasive species.

https://inaturalist.ala.org.au/observations/113073054

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Welcome to the forum @fubberpish . That’s an interesting find and an interesting resolution.

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I’ve been quite fortunate in regards to this, as I have three different observations that are a first in my home state, one that I suspect is a first in a neighboring state, and one first on iNat as a whole. I hope I can find more eventually!

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And even if you can’t make a first in iNat observation (I live in an area with professional naturalists using the app all the time), you can get to know a world wide genus and be the person who first identifies a species in iNaturalist. I have been on iNaturalist less than a year, and have several such identifications confirmed by a professor and curator in places I have never visited.

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How does one discover first observations? Is it easy to screen for such?

This is the first Penstemonia moth on iNat for the entire Rocky Mountain region Penstemonia clarkei from Los Alamos, NM

If you’ve never heard of this moth, that’s okay. I heard of it for the first time this morning, after photographing this individual yesterday in Los Alamos.

For starters, Penstemonia is a genus of moths in western North America (presumably including northern Mexico) in the family Sessiidae (clearwing moths). [Quick sidenote: Hemaris clearwing moths are in the hawk moth family, Sphingidae.]

Clearwing moths often resemble wasps and bees in coloration and marking. They have elongate wings, often transparent owing to the lack of scales. Most of the larvae are borers in the limbs, trunks, bark, or roots of trees, shrubs, herbs and vines (like the infamous peach tree borer). Some bore in galls on woody or herbaceous plants. Majority of adults take nectar. [Source: bugguide.net]

What about our Penstemon clearwing?
There are at least 5 species of Penstemonia in North America. Larval feeding is probably limited to Penstemon or closely related plant species in Cheloneae. The larva will be found within a stem [or roots] at crown level and damage appears as a wilting or dieback of individual stems. Pupation is probably in the soil at the base of plants, but there is no description of them. [Source: Colorado State University Extension (colostate.edu)]

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A forum user (@pisum) created an API search for users that includes taxon total observations count – anything listed there with a total of “1” should be a first observation for iNaturalist. It might be possible to edit the url to focus on region instead of user.

Here’s the url I have saved to check my own observation totals:
https://jumear.github.io/stirfry/iNatAPIv1_observations_species_counts.html?order=asc&user_id=whaichi

(Change user_id=whaichi to user_id=teellbee to check your own list.)

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