iNaturalist, science

This week saw an example of iNaturalist observation being useful for scientists. A hard-to-identify observation of a plant in the Apiaceae (carrot family) came to the attention of an expert in the group who recognized it as a possible unnamed species. The population will be sampled later this month and included in a major study of the group.


That is very cool! Reminds me of the old story about Ted Parker “discovering” a new bird species in the background of someone else’s audio recording.

Do you have a link to a story about this?


I was able to do something similar recently. I found a grass I didn’t recognize, went to the locality in the observation, found it, made specimens, and realized it was a new invasive species which had never been reported outside of it’s native range (Brazil) before. Doing a bit more work I found it in 2 other localities as well. I’ll be writing this one up and publishing it probably by the end of the year.


@sedgequeen, can you add a link to the observation into the original post?

  1. This just happened. There’s no story to link to.

  2. I hesitate to link to the observation yet because I would like the population to be undisturbed (it may be rare, if truly an undescribed species) and because it’s polite to give the researchers an opportunity to describe this without anyone else jumping in to do it.


Similar vein; have a semi-confirmed Appalachian Azure which is rare to find in N. Alabama and only has like two confirmed sightings in the county (that butterfly researchers saw firsthand). I say semi-confirmed because right time of year and patterning is good for it and there is host plant nearish (down the road from us). I thought it was, and labeled as such, but it was like a year later that butterfly researcher here contacted me about it, and confirmed as best as one can without having the actual specimen / specialist having seen it firsthand. I’m not sure if was entered into the state database though; one those things hard to be beyond any doubt but it is the most likely given the evidence.


One “science” thing I’ve been curious about, meanwhile, has been the apparent disappearance of the brown basilisk (Basiliscus vittatus) from a local park (Volunteer Park, in the city of Plantation, FL). It is one of multiple non-native lizard species that are commonly found in south Florida neighborhoods.

I’ve been there a few times this year and I’ve not seen this lizard species at all. They were ridiculously common last year; I’d see them all the time there. But this year I haven’t seen them. And so far, no one has posted an iNat observation for them at this park, since September of last year.

Are they really gone? Was there some sort of intentional human effort to extirpate them here or did something else (e.g. predation? lack of food? (unlikely.) poisoning?) just wipe them out? Or is this just the wrong time to see them (unlikely since they were easily spotted this time of year last year too)?

FWIW, this was partly born from my asking myself, “what’s the value of capturing more observations of species that have already been commonly identified?”. I don’t know a lot of the rarer stuff around here, and I don’t get out often enough to find rare stuff, so I end up making a lot of observations of common species. But it might still be useful to pay attention to stuff that’s supposedly common. And this turns out that it might be an interesting example of why.


I agree. We can’t detect disappearances unless we’re recording presence fairly often.


At least two of my obs have been recognised as undescribed species, but I don’t know if anyone is likely to be describing them anytime soon.


I added those to undescribed taxa project.


Thanks, I hadn’t realised there was such a thing.

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great news, congratulations!

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This case - of species introductions - is where urban observations are of great value. That’s where most species get introduced.


Just this week, Oregon observer Matt Unitis found a sedge he and colleagues couldn’t identify. They posted it on iNaturalist: The post was discussed among people interested in sedges and tentatively identified as Isolepis levynsiana (formerly Cyperus tenellus), which has spread from South Africa to Australia, South America, the Caribbean, Texas, Louisiana, and more recently California. Being a sedge enthusiast, I visited the site and (cooperating with the state parks personnel) collected specimens for herbaria. This is the first record of this little weed in Oregon. Whoo hoo!


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