Lack of information on Micrurus

I was looking around through Micrurus and realised, there’s not a whole lot of observations and general information on a majority of the 82 species listed, why?

Looking at the location names of a lot of the species without observations or few observations, they’re probably just in areas that aren’t as well traveled or don’t have as dense of a community of iNatters.

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Given that most Micrurus (and their allies) are from South America, specifically the Amazon, you’re experiencing the (unfortunate) interaction of several things.

First, there is an issue with continental-scale differences in observations. North America and Europe are a firehose of observations whereas in South America it’s more like a trickle. For example, I’ve been identifying lizards in the Amazon for the past bit and noticed I’m lucky if there are 100 observations of all 255 species of Amazonian lizards PER WEEK. Yet, for my main study species (Uta stansburiana) there are often 100 observations added PER DAY!

Second, you have to consider who is doing the observing. In some places (again, North America and Europe), cell phones (and cell phone cameras) have proliferated to the point where local residents are contributing the majority of observations on a daily basis (and I appreciate each of them for that). However, in the Amazon, it appears to be primarily tourists who do the observing with a lower level of regional or local residents contributing. Hence the observations are highly spotty with large blank sections on the map of observations.

Third, consider the fact that many academics have not yet caught on to the idea that iNat could really benefit from their observation. Thus, the people with most of the observations of those things contribute their data to museums, not here. I’m trying to change that by encouraging people like Laurie Vitt (my MS advisor) to at least contribute pictures of things that lack any representation, but there’s reluctance to “go public” in that way.

Finally, consider that you’re talking about Micrurus a highly venomous snake. There’s the anti-snake-bias, sure, but Micrurus are notoriously sporadic in their activity (the only one I even encountered in 12 months of tropical field work was one I excavated from a rotting log…something tourists aren’t going to do generally). Hence, I doubt they are actually encountered at a rate comparable to even other venomous snakes like crotalids or viperids.

It’s a perfect storm of obfuscation, really. The growth curve of observations for those taxa you’re interested in is probably similarly shaped to everything else, but just much much slower. Case in point, of the 16,000 observations of 255 lizard species from the Amazon, only four (4!) have ~1000 or more observations (see here for more details). In North America many taxa have 10, 20, 40, or even 80X that number of observations despite having similar sized ranges and probably occurring at similar abundances as South America taxa.


Generally, snakes are fast. They slither away the moment you see them. You try to get the camera out but they are gone. Some snakes are crepuscular or nocturnal. Micrurus may have some look-alikes. Need some expertise to tell them apart. I think observations are in ‘Micrurus’ and a few more pictures may be in ‘Serpentes’ or a higher classification. Need people to identify those pictures.
iNat is linked to wikipedia page. Many species are listed there at wikipedia. There is currently not much information in the pages.

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