The unexpected finds

One of the best things about exploring nature is finding things you didn’t expect to find. I’m not just talking about something you’ve only seen in a field guide before(though those finds are great) I’m talking about things you had no idea lived/grew in your area. I found freshwater jellyfish in Pennsylvania! (native to China) And just yesterday I found a wild cactus(a Prickly Pear) right by my backyard. You don’t normally think of cacti in Pennsylvania, yet there it was. Share your own unexpected finds.


maybe it doesn’t count since i was doing a survey for work but i did find a plant that was believed extirpated from Vermont… among other rare and uncommon plants. I find small outliers and range extensions all the time.


When I lived in northeastern Pennsylvania I once found a land planarian in my backyard.


I recently got a macro lens and have been finding unexpected things in my mom’s own backyard! I lived here from 1996-2007 but the lens makes me feel like I’m vacationing in another continent.

A few highlights: the iridescent jumping spider Cosmophasis umbratica; ant-mimic mantis Ondontimantis planiceps; and a moth genus that builds a sphere-like net surrounding its own pupa, Cyana.


What plant was that?

Scirpus georgianus. It’s a very difficult plant to ID (i had a much better botanist than I verify it) so it may be present in more places and just getting msised. I will be keeping an eye out for more of it.


These guys were certainly unexpected but mainly in a humorous way. Eventually around 20 were found in total, a tree with living decorations!:

But wait, there’s more!.. In the same tree were also this ootheca:

and… then a few weeks ago I found this one and another old one when I was trimming the branches:

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A casual insect snap on Staten Island, NY a couple years ago made the bee specialists REALLY excited, which was very neat to be part of:

Apparently the northernmost record of the species, and its only record on iNaturalist so far.

  • While looking for salamanders with a few other people in the central region of South Korea we came across a skull that seems to be from Ursus thibetanus ussuricus (Manchurian Black Bear), which is surprising since the most recent information I could find suggested there were only 21 bears reported in the entire country and none in that area.

  • I walk to work and usually take a busy path near a small river every day. In 2016 I encountered two Pelodiscus maackii (Northern Chinese Softshell Turtle) sunning themselves on rocks in the river. I never would have expected to encounter that species living near an urban center. (Though I suppose it’s possible they could have been dumped pets.)

  • Last year I came across an interesting jumping spider near some apartments in town and later made two other observations of the species. After doing a bit of research I learned that the species is Euophrys kataokai, discovered in 1977 and with the first known record in Korea from 2003, and mine are the only records for the species on iNaturalist.


I have not found it this Mexican butterfly in Puerto Rico, but was involved in identification. Hope that counts.
Anybody has a clue how to activate the US administration USDA and or APHIS as for the upcoming invasion?

Last year I was excited to find a couple of plants of Tropical Mexican Clover growing as weeds in a raised flowerbed of a big apartment building here in New York City:

That was new to NYC, and new to the northeast.

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I love this thread. Keep it going!

I found Cantharellula umbonata in NW Florida this winter, and the records of it that I can find have no mention of its presence in the southern US, though there is another observation from Tennessee as well and a couple from Alabama, not to mention Mexico! I thought it was pretty cool though.

I also found a rabbit puddle once.

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I found out that a supposed group of 11 escapee Domestic Budgerigar were actually 47 deliberately released birds:

And then there was that Masked Booby at the end of a restaurant’s pier:

I’ve had a few of those ‘what-are-the-odds’ kind of experiences, where some part of my brain was definitely aware of the possibility of seeing something, but I never expected it to actually happen.

For instance, I know that the Eastern hercules beetle is found in the Deep South, but when I took a trip there in 2016 the odds of finding one seemed too slim to even consider. I found one less than 24 hours into the trip.

Or the time I was hiking up Mt Dunfee in the Nevada desert on a chilly overcast day in October, looking for Cambrian trace fossils with a paleontology field class, and a desert horned lizard hatchling trundled under a bush right next to where I had stopped to rest.

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Wow, that’s awful. Small chance of releasing a new invasive species but larger chance the poor defenseless animals die horrible deaths in a new environment they can’t understand or survive in. Gross.

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Like @dhricenak I was surprised to see broadhead flatworms in Tennessee and Ontario, as I always thought of them as exotic. I think they are invasive species from Asia (via Europe?), so maybe they are.

I also photographed a Worm Slug in my backyard, apparently a new species for Ontario. I almost ignored it too because before this I didn’t think slugs were interesting…

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I’m an undergrad and my research involves spider surveys. I was standing next to this box and I look down at my feet and see a Mole Kingsnake, which is rare for my area. Overall really cool find, but I will take spiders over snakes anyday.


I generally don’t look into the biodiversity of a place too much before I go so I don’t hype myself up to see something that I might not see so I am often surprised by many things even if they might be a bit common in the area. Some that really stand out for me though were; my first time seeing a Amblypygid in the wild which I found when I flipped over some rubble in a mangrove forest with my uncle and initially got super excited over the shed skin only to look over at the rock I flipped to see the owner sitting right there.

Another one from the same island wasn’t so much of a surprise until it was identified, which was a beetle from Mexico which hadn’t been recorded on the island before.

Finally on my recent trip to Oregon I was flipping over logs and I saw a salamander. Now this shouldn’t have been surprising to me because logically there should be plenty in that type of ecosystem. The thing was, I had somehow completely forgotten that I could see salamanders up there. When I flipped the log I began my normal habit of scanning the bark for small organisms such as snails and springtails and then I looked to the dirt to see if there were any more there and thats when I saw the salamander. I actually reeled back and yelled in surprise before rushing to take a photo. I had my mother (who was hiking with me) grab our container to catch animals in so we could get a look at it from all angles. Overall a great experience!

I’m sure I have had plenty other unexpected finds, but these really stand out to me.


I made a homemade mothtrap to use at a bioblitz. To test it out, I put it in my backyard. Caught 7 (different) moths, and put up observations for them. Turned out one of them is a moth new to NZ, and when I sent away 20 specimens to MPI for testing/ID, there is the possibility it could even be a new species, period!


And a beautiful pic to boot!

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