Unwanted organisms in captive environments?

I’m wondering if observations of stowaway organisms in captive environments should be marked as captive/cultivated or not.

The examples that come to mind are two observations I made recently. One is of Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, a very common parasite in aquarium fish. The other is of some Audouinella species of algae that is in a friend’s aquarium.

In both cases these are unwanted organisms that were brought into closed captive environments unknowingly. However, unlike garden slugs eating your tomato plants or something like that, there’s no way for the parasite or algae to get into an aquarium by itself. It would have to be brought in by a human, even though it would be by accident. This makes me think these observations should be captive. However, if I think about it in terms of something like a virus or bedbugs, which can infect/infest human environments and would also need to be brought in to them accidentally by people, this makes me think they shouldn’t be marked as captive.

Thoughts?

Here’s the ich: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/128894523
Here’s the algae: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/128896190

I’ve marked them both as casual right now, even though I’m not sure that’s right.

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If there was no intention to move it, it’s wild, if organism didn’t change life stage, you can also post it with date and place of where it came from.

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According to the the iNat Help page, this is the distinction between wild and captive/cultivated:

“Checking captive / cultivated means that the observation is of an organism that exists in the time and place it was observed because humans intended it to be then and there. Likewise, wild / naturalized organisms exist in particular times and places because they intended to do so (or because of intention of another wild organism).”

So, on iNat, the distinction between captive and wild organisms has nothing to do with their environment but rather the intention or lack of intention on the part of humans. This means that yes, things like fish tank parasites and hitchhikers and greenhouse weeds are wild, for iNat’s purposes at least.

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I agree that human intention is a major part of determining wild vs. captive for organisms on iNat in the guidelines. I would definitely classify the parasite as wild myself based on the reasoning you gave and analogies to other diseases or parasites. Additionally, it’s clear that in almost all cases, a human would not intentionally bring in a parasite (unless they wanted to study it or something).

I think that the algae example is less clear. Even though it was brought in to the aquarium unintentionally, it is still being maintained in an environment intentionally supported by a human and wouldn’t otherwise be able to survive. We could think of this like a garden in which a human scattered a contaminated mix of seeds. The human didn’t want contaminated seeds (the algae brought into the aquarium) introduced into this garden, but these would still be cultivated, because the human did introduce them and the organism is only capable of surviving because a human is intentionally watering/maintaining that environment. So personally, I would mark that one as cultivated.

I realize that this argument could also be applied to the fish parasite by some kind of chain rule - the fish (the parasite’s “environment”) is living inside an aquarium intentionally maintained by humans. But I haven’t seen anything saying that we should take that into account (is it turtles all the way down?). For instance, I’ve never heard that diseases in cultivated plants should be marked as captive/cultivated for this reason (though happy to hear if that is indeed the case).

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But if person doesn’t add water for algae, it’s more like a weed in a garden, it’s getting watered just because it’s there (and it’s said to be unwanted there, probably different if person would like to have it there and keep it).

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The iNat definitions of captive vs wild do not make any mention of environment, therefore it should not be considered when determining if an organism is wild or captive. Both the algae and the fish parasite are clearly wild here, just like a greenhouse weed or hitchhiking anole.

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If you’re not purposefully putting them there and caring for them, they’re wild. I think this is particularly important for things like parasites, which can be inadvertently spread around. Knowing that parasite X has been found in fish tanks in Denver, for example, provides an important piece of information and may trigger others to check for it as well.

I always have to keep looking in the “captive” section on fungi observations, because a lot of people are under the mistaken impression that things growing on their captive plants should also be marked captive - which makes it much harder to spot potentially important disease outbreaks.

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I disagree. The guidelines definitely mention the environment multiple times. There are multiple references to zoos, gardens as well as “spreading outside of the intended gardening area” and establishing “a population outside of human care”. So environment and human care are parts of what can be considered.

I think that there is a difference between “unintentional” and “unwanted” that is important here. Let’s say I wanted to plant tomatoes in my garden, but I bought plants mislabeled as peppers (and I couldn’t tell the difference). Once the plants grow and are peppers, I don’t want them. I didn’t intentionally plant peppers, but I did intentionally plant those plants. They aren’t wild. It would be the same for a mix of contaminated seed. I didn’t get the plants I wanted to plant, but I did intend to plant those seeds.

I think that the same principle applies here for the algae. We don’t have the full story, so I can’t be sure, but it sounds like the algae was introduced to the aquarium with other aquatic plants as part of an intentional introduction. So the route of introduction was intentional (even if the human didn’t want that specific individual or species of algae). I realize that is a fine distinction, but it’s an important one. If we don’t make it, we’re left to try to determine wild/captive based on whether a specific human wants/doesn’t want an individual to be present, which is incredibly difficult to determine (and could change day by day).

Algae get in aquariums with water, no need of other plants, so you can’t know how they get there.

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I think the argument that these should both be wild is a strong one. I’ve marked the parasite as wild (and a few others already have as well). For the time being I’m still on the fence about the algae. I’ve removed the mark that it’s captive/cultivated, but maybe I’ll just let others ultimately make the determination. I appreciate everyone’s thoughts here. As a layman that’s just here to learn, it’s helpful to hear the way others think through this stuff.

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The algae is definitely wild. It just showed up and was never intentionally introduced, so I don’t really see the argument for it being captive. It’s no different from a greenhouse weed, which are also considered wild.

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Yes, and as I recall, it says that the fly on the zebra in the zoo is a wild fly.

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This reminds me of Koko, the Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla ssp. gorilla) who was taught sign language and who had a pet kitten (Felis catus). More information about Koko’s kitten.

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Yes, and as I recall, it says that the fly on the zebra in the zoo is a wild fly.

I think the difference here is that the fly flew in to the zoo and on to the zebra of it’s own accord. With the algae, if can’t do that. If I set up a glass box and fill it up with water (for the sake of this conversation, it’s water without any contaminants), the algae won’t get there by itself.

Yes, it will - that’s how it got there.

The examples used are just examples - they do not encompass all possibilities nor all environments - it’s all about intention, as the definition clearly states. Bearing this in mind, the algae is wild.

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What do people think of this starfish observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/130153102

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I think in general it’s best to not post individual iNat observations here. Let the community find it and vote and discuss there as details for each case can be unique. In the end that’s where these discussions should happen. Any researcher who comes across the observation can see the discussion (and even participate if they want) and decide whether or not to use the data point.

Since it’s currently listed as captive, the possibility of others finding the observation without this post seems pretty low.

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