November 27, 2022

Recognizing Eudesmia australis (Orfila, 1935)

Eudesmia australis (Orfila, 1935)

Cisthene australis Orfila, 1935. Rev. Soc. Entomol. Arg. 7:225-226.
Vianania australis Orfila, 1953. Physis 20(59):483-484.
[Bendib & Minet (1999) synonymized Vianania under Eudesmia.]

Resumen (español): Eudesmia australis se puede reconocer por las pequeñas manchas anaranjadas en el collar y las manchas anaranjadas subapicales "triangulares" en las alas anteriores. La especie se encuentra desde el estado de Santa Catarina, Brasil, hasta el sur del departamento de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Eudesmia australis: Argentina @claudianr | Argentina @luchoperalta | Uruguay @gmmv80

Like other southern South American members of the genus, Eudesmia australis has (1) two orange subterminal patches instead of one orange crescent, and (2) a median orange or yellow band which often has irregular margins, bulges in the middle, and narrows at the costa and inner forewing margins. Of the two subterminal patches, the shape of the subapical one has been described as "subtriangular" or "triangular" (Orfila 1935, 1953), refering to the fact that the patch is widest in the middle, its basal edge forms a broad obtuse angle, and the distal margin is evenly and gently curved. This is similar to the same patch on E. ruficollis of Brazil and contrasts with the rectangular or crescentic subapical patch on E. argentinensis. The thorax is mostly black with two widely separated spots of orange on the collar, unlike the nearly continuous orange collar of both E. argentinensis and E. ruficollis. There appears to be a general trend for the orange on the collar to be slightly more extensive towards the northern part of the range of this species, thus approaching the continuous orange collar shown on E. ruficollis.

On iNaturalist, Eudesmia australis has been documented from southern Brazil, through Uruguay, and into southern Buenos Aires province, Argentina. The westernmost images on iNaturalist are near Tornquist, Buenos Aires Province. The northernmost images are from the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil. [I have just started identifying observations of "Vianania" (= Eudesmia) australis on iNaturalist, so the current Map doesn't fully reflect all of the recently recognized observations.]

Orfila, R. N. 1935. Lepidoptera Neotropica, II. Dos nuevas especies de Noctuoidea. Rev. Soc. Entomol. Arg. 7:225-226.

Orfila, R. N. 1953. Notas sobre Lithosiidae, I. El género Eudesmia Hb. y un género y especie nuevos. Physis 20:474-485.

Posted on November 27, 2022 15:01 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 6 comments | Leave a comment

Uncovering another lichen moth: Eudesmia aymara from Bolivia

Resumen (español): Después de estudiar la literatura sobre varios géneros de polillas de líquenes, descubrí una observación de Eudesmia aymara, una especie local y aparentemente poco común del centro de Bolivia. La observación fue realizada por @eldirko en enero de 2021. [En la taxonomía de iNat, esta especie solía ser incluida en el género Vianania. Posteriormente Bendib & Monet (1999) colocaron Vianania como sinónimo de Eudesmia.]

This is kind of fun! I’ve spent many days recently delving into the literature on the lichen moths of the genus Eudesmia and related genera such as Vianania, etc. This can be pretty tedious, but I really enjoy little discoveries along the way. Well, today I made a big “discovery” in this group of moths.

Eudesmia aymara was described originally in the genus Vianania by Ricardo N. Orfila in 1953 from a few specimens collected in Bolivia. The original description (of both the new genus and species) is in the Spanish-language journal, Physis, the official bulletin of the Argentine Association of Natural Sciences (Asociación Argentina de Ciencias Naturales). Hernan M. Beccacece of the National University of Cordoba (Argentina) was kind enough to send me a pdf of the original paper by Orfila. Almost simultaneously in my literature review, I came across a listing of “Type material of Arctiinae…in the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales” (Rodriguez-Ramirez et al. 2020. Zootaxa 4742) which included photographs of a holotype specimen of Vianania aymara. [Incidentally, although Orfila does not explain the name, “aymara” refers to a population of indigenous people of Bolivia and their language.] As I read through Orfila’s description and looked at the photos in the other paper, I once again came to the conclusion that it ought to be recognizable in field photos. However, as of earlier today (11/26/2022), there were no observations of any Vianania or Eudesmia moths on iNaturalist from Bolivia, despite there being at least two and maybe three species occurring in the country.

So I began a search through tiger and lichen moths (Arctiinae) from Bolivia, which numbered some 1,500 observations. Several pages into this set of observations, I suddenly came across this observation by Dirk Dekker (@eldirko), made in the Sucre municipality, Chiquisaca Dept., Bolivia, in January 2021:
Eudesmia aymara, Bolivia, Dirk Dekker (iNat)
It is a perfect match to Orfila’s description and the illustration of the holotype specimen (which I can’t link to because of copyright restrictions). I finished going through the rest of the Arctiids in Bolivia and found no other examples. So Dirk’s image is the first photo of a living example of the species, and to date, the only one.

The species is recognized by the combination of marks I mention in Dirk’s observation, above, namely:
-- orange collar
-- black thorax and abdomen
-- pale yellow median band on the forewings consisting of 4 separate spots (innermost reduced to a dot)
-- two yellow subterminal patches on forewings
-- hindwing broadly yellow at base, with black terminal band
From Orfila’s specimens and Dirk Dekker’s image, the species has only been documented in two locations in mountainous central Bolivia. It makes me wonder what other unrecognized discoveries are hidden among unidentified observations on iNaturalist!

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Dirk Dekker (@eldirko) for uploading this important observation! I also thank Hernan M. Beccacece (Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, @hernan24) and Juan López-Gappa (Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales Bernardino Rivadavia) for providing difficult-to-locate references. Jose Balderrama (@jose_balderrama) helped with Bolivian placenames. Lucas Rubio (@lrubio7) helped update the taxonomy on Tony Iwane (@tiwane) helped me trouble-shoot the syntax for this post.

Posted on November 27, 2022 03:07 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 3 comments | Leave a comment

November 24, 2022

Pattern Variation in Eudesmia Lichen Moths

Resumen (español): Describo e ilustro la variación en el tono y el patrón de color que se encuentra en los miembros del género de polillas del liquen Eudesmia.

I recently posted a journal entry describing my "rediscovery" of a species of Eudesmia lichen moth, Eudesmia lunaris, which had been overlooked for over a century. As I mention there, part of the difficulty in identifying moths in this genus deals with their pattern and color variability. I'm still going through thousands of images to sort out additional species which may have been overlooked, but I wanted to take a moment to demonstrate how much variability there can be.

The array below shows examples of Eudesmia arida, the northernmost member of the genus and the only species occurring with any regularity in the United States (Arizona to West Texas). Since no other species in the genus has been documented in this U.S. range, I make the assumption that all the examples uploaded to iNaturalist in the region are, in fact, Eudesmia arida. (I can't make such an assumption further south in the Neotropics.)

Eudesmia arida comparison
Eudesmia arida (all), Upper row: Texas @gcwarbler | Arizona © @finatic | Arizona @psyllidhipster | Arizona @silversea_starsong
Lower row: Arizona @matt_lachiusa | Arizona @court_rae | Arizona © @jaykeller | Arizona @fowlivia

It is apparent when looking at the array of Eudesmia images for just about any species that there is variation in the following aspects:
-- Color hue: Most species show some variation in the color bands and patches from rich golden orange to pale orange, in some cases to deep yellow, pale yellow, or even creamy white color. In Eudesmia arida, most moths have relatively rich orange color patches (above, upper row), but occasional yellow forms are found (lower row). A few species in the genus, especially those in southern South America, tend to be dominated by paler color bands. The amount of color hue variation differs among species and may have regional, seasonal, and sexual components to the variation, but this has not been investigated in any detail.
-- Band widths: One of the most striking aspects is the variation in the width of the orange color bands and smaller details of their shape; note the variation from L to R in each row, above. Certain gross generalizations tend to hold true for each species but the wide variation in these aspects lead several early researchers to name new species based on perceived band-width differences from examination of very few specimens. We benefit now from the wealth of additional images of living examples in repositories such as iNaturalist. Unfortunately, some of the species described in early literature were distinguished also by details of hindwing color pattern (e.g. the width of the marginal black band on the hindwings) and the color of the abdomen, neither of which can be seen in most images of living moths in natural posture. Every image on iNaturalist which shows any hint of the hindwing or abdominal coloration is so valuable for this reason!
-- Size differences: Males of most Eudesmia species are anywhere from 10 to 30% smaller than females (see below). Combined with the variation mentioned above, this probably lead Walker to name the male and female of E. lunaris as different species. The image of a mated pair of Eudesmia ruficollis below, taken by Maria Izabel L. Mosini (@bebelmosini) in São Paulo, Brazil, demonstrates both the size disparity and color differences which can be observed in many species. The differences are not always this dramatic, but it's something to keep in mind.

Eudesmia ruficollis, mated pair, 18 April 2020, São Paulo, Brazil @bebelmosini

A few future journal posts will deal with the recognition of other distinctive species of Eudesmia found in Mexico and southern South America which can apparently be distinguished by certain details of head/thorax/abdomen coloration. Stay tuned!

Posted on November 24, 2022 02:40 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 1 comment | Leave a comment

November 19, 2022

Rediscovering an Overlooked Lichen Moth in Colombia and Venezuela

Resumen (español): El género Eudesmia incluye alrededor de 20 especies similares y se distribuye desde el suroeste de los Estados Unidos hasta el sur de América del Sur. Eudesmia lunaris es una especie distintiva que se encuentra en Colombia y Venezuela. Único dentro del género, es reconocible por las estrechas rayas anaranjadas cerca de la base de las alas anteriores, en combinación con los estrechos bordes anaranjados de la base de las alas anteriores y una mancha oscura en el tórax. Encontré alrededor de 38 observaciones de esta especie previamente no reconocida en iNaturalista.

Lichen moths of the genus Eudesmia Hübner are easily recognizable with their black wings that are boldly banded with orange or yellow.

Eudesmia arida, Texas @gcwarbler | E. nr menea, Panama @josuergg | E. australis, Brazil @pajeu

About 20 species are known from the genus at present. The genus is distributed from the southwestern United States to southern South America. Although they are easily recognized as a group, several species are difficult to separate in the field. This is the result of several factors: (1) many species are, indeed, quite similar; (2) original descriptions are often very brief and scattered in early literature; (3) a lot of individual variation in patterns was not appreciated by early researchers, resulting in the unnecessary naming of "new" species; (4) there is no recent revision of the genus nor any handy modern field guide to aid identification of the moths in this genus.

I have been digging back into the literature and trying to sort out some of the Eudesmia species which seem to have been overlooked in modern times. For instance, among the 17 species listed in iNaturalist's taxonomy as of 1 November 2022, images of only seven species had been uploaded. As well, since many observers just choose the most numerous or most-identified species as a suggested identification, the proportion of misidentified images is high.

As I read back through the original literature, one species described from Colombia seemed to stand out in that it ought to be quite recognizable. "Cisthene" [= Eudesmia] lunaris was described by Francis Walker in 1865 from a male specimen in the British Museum. Among other details, he mentions that the species has "a pale luteous [yellow-orange] subcostal streak extending from the base [of the forewing]" and "a pale luteous streak extending along the interior border from the base to the first [orange] band." Those orange streaks in the basal area and on the inner margin of the forewings are not evident in any other species in the genus. Hampson (1900) and Draudt (1918) published rather smudgy illustrations of lunaris which may have done more to obfuscated its identity rather than to help identify the species.

So I began perusing observations of Eudesmia uploaded from Colombia and Venezuela and immediately found dozens of images which match Walker's description.

E. lunaris, Colombia @smejiadu | E. lunaris, Colombia @juanleonlleras | E. lunaris, Venezuela @fherrerav

They were also easy to separate from other Eudesmia because, unlike most other Eudesmia moths in that region which have a solid orange thorax, the newly separated Eudesmia lunaris more often than not have a small to large black spot in the center of the thorax and often small black dots at the front end of the tegulae (small tracts of scales flanking the thorax).

As of this evening (11/18/2022), I have put the name Eudesmia lunaris on about 38 iNat observations. The species appears to range from southwestern Colombia northeast to northern Venezuela near Caracas. Observations have been made in the lowlands, intermontane valleys, and lower Andean foothills up to 1,500 m elevations (mostly below 500 m). @gregory_nielsen uploaded the earliest image of Eudesmia lunaris on iNat, near Villavicencio, Colombia, and remarkably also documented the larva and pupa, almost certainly the first ever images of those.

Eudesmia lunaris larva, pupa, and adult; near Villavicencio, Meta Dept., Colombia @gregory_nielsen

One remaining conundrum was the identity of "Cisthene curvifera", described by Walker in 1865 on the same page as his Cisthene [= Eudesmia] lunaris. I noticed that the description of curvifera was very similar to that of lunaris, and that it had been described from a single female specimen from the same location (Bogota) and same collection ("Mr. Stevens") as lunaris. Curvifera seems not to have been illustrated anywhere and is not mentioned by any subsequent authors except in a list by Butler (1877). It seems pretty apparent that curvifera simply represents the female of Walker's lunaris; no one else seems to have bothered to point this out. I have a manuscript in preparation on the genus Eudesmia which will formally suggest that synonymy.

My thanks to the many iNaturalists who have uploaded there images of this and related species, and to @pfau_tarleton for coaching me on some of the formatting in this post!

Posted on November 19, 2022 02:27 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 3 comments | Leave a comment

August 29, 2022


I just returned from a 5,800-mile road trip to the West Coast. I haven’t quite known how to describe this trip. I've made many long road trips previously to various parts of the country. Their overt purpose was typically to visit family and friends in far-flung locations. In all such travels (dating back to my enlistment on iNaturalist and earlier), I observed a lot of nature and took many pictures along the way--sometimes very casually, occasionally with an intense focus here or there. Those results are detectable on a map of my iNat uploads over the past several years.

But this most recent trip has been qualitatively and quantitatively different.

Once again, the nominal impetus was to visit our daughter (and a few other expat Texans) in Portland, Oregon. But during the planning stages for this trip ranging from Texas to the Pacific Northwest, it was evident that the recent wet monsoon conditions in southern Arizona elicited in me a desire for more than a casual drive through that particular region. More planning ("bio-planning"?) for the trip suggested that I ought to take the opportunity to visit not only southern Arizona, but also several habitats en route which either had been long-resident on my bucket list or which harkened back to childhood family vacations.

Putting that all into motion--literally--and maintaining a high energy level directed at garnering useful iNaturalist data lead to this...experience. After hundreds of miles of thinking about it, I finally settled on the following term: This has been a BioVac*. The word is a purposeful play on two concepts: (1) biological vacation, and (2) biological vacuuming (of observations, etc.).

The biodiversity of the western U.S. is overwhelming on any scale. I certainly can't call what I've done a "bioblitz". Although there were locations and moments when I tried to document just about any biota that presented itself, in no way were any of my efforts thorough enough to rise to the level of a "blitz" as we now apply the term. Rather, I made a point of targetting selected ecological regions and major habitat types and attempting to document a full suite of dominent or characteristic plants, along with any animals that presented themselves. I brought along a boxful of field guides and floras, but as the travels progressed the primary companion guide for much of the trip was the classic Peterson Field Guide to Western Trees (Petrides & Petrides 1992, 1st ed.). With that tome in hand, I allowed myself to focus on two "guidepost" species groups: conifers and oaks. I had previously encountered most of the common species in these groups in many of the western states. So I poured over the Peterson Field Guide to help focus my attention and chart some special travel stopovers to look for regional endemics (within reasonable travel reach of my general path to/from Oregon) such as Brewer's (Weeping) Spruce, Bishop Pine, Coast Redwood, Giant Sequoia, and the many oaks of the Southwest. An additional reference that became indispensible during the course of my journey was @michaelkauffmann's Conifer Country. I knew I couldn't possibly encounter and document all of the potential species, but a reasonable effort along my selected route eventually compiled a very respectable list.

And beyond my guidepost species and habitats, I just "vacuumed up" whatever other biodiversity I could find!

So from seaweeds to saguaros, slime molds to spruce, Syssphynx to Sasquatch, everything was fair game. Of course, I focused (for the most part) on identifiable stuff (plants with flowers or fruits) but that didn't stop me from documenting an interesting plant here or there if the foliage seemed distinctive to me.

Oh, did I mention mothing? I tried to do some mothing at every camping stop. The travel routine to/from Oregon was typically two days camping to one night at a motel to recharge batteries and clean up. I put up lights and a moth sheet on ten camping nights from Arizona to Oregon and back. That is a lesson in biodiversity worthy of a separate journal entry.

So here are some handy links to gain an entry into the biodiversity I encountered and documented. I have over 6,000 images to sift through. Making a SWAG: I might guess that about 10% of those were scenery shots, another 15% will be culls (out of focus, etc.), so I might have garnered something like 4,500 images of plants and animals to edit and select from. Erring on the generous side, if I averaged 4 or 5 images per subject (especially for plants), I can make an initial guess that I made something like 900 to 1,100 observations. I certainly documented some species of plants and animals more than once, so if I averaged maybe 2 or 3 observations per species (probably less than that), I am looking at going through, identifying, editing, and uploading something like 300 to 400 species of plants and animals. Time will tell if that calculation is anywhere in the ballpark.

UPDATE (10/12/22): Well, the task of identifying and uploading all the photos from this trip has been an interesting journey in and of itself. I just uploaded the last of the images from the last day on the road, August 26. With those, the tentative tally (from iNat) from the 27-day trip (July 31 - August 26) shows a total of 1,871 observations uploaded which document a minumum of 1,077 species of plants, animals, fungi, etc. Clearly my earlier calculation (above) was waaaay off! There are still many observations which must be examined and perhaps IDed to species, so the species total is likely to increase a bit in the future, but when I sit back and look at it all, I am just floored by the diversity I was able to encounter on the trip.

All of my West Coast August 2022 observations
Flowering Plants
My "Biota of the Klamath Mountain Geomorphic Province"
A Sampler of Plants in Del Norte County, California
My Seaweeds (Green, Red, and Brown Algae)

Texas observations
New Mexico observations
Arizona observations
California observations
Oregon observations

* I'm clearly not the first writer to coin the term "BioVac". A quick search of the internet reveals diverse corporations, products, and government programs around the world going under this moniker. So I will only claim this novel use of the term for my particular corner of the citizen science world.

Posted on August 29, 2022 15:46 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 48 observations | 7 comments | Leave a comment

June 06, 2022

Common Moth, Rare Caterpillar

It's probably not an unusual situation that the larvae of a common species of moth are poorly known and seldom documented. Despite the efforts of guru's like David L. Wagner and enthusiasts like @k8thegr8, a lot of caterpillars still elude us or remain unidentified.
Such seems to be the case of the Spotted Peppergrass Moth (Eustixia pupula, Crambidae; a.k.a. the "Peppergrass Pyralid").
Eustixia pupula_6166

I accidentally documented a couple of larvae of this species on the Texas coast in late May and only recently discovered what I had done:
Eustixia pupula_7384cropEustixia pupula_7383

I tell the story of that documentation in the notes with the first of these observations, but to recap: Between Moth Photographer's Group, BugGuide, iNaturalist, and a few other online resources, there are well over a thousand images of adults of the Spotted Peppergrass Moth...and yet my images of the caterpillar seems to be the first. I uploaded these to BugGuide a short while ago.
Dyar described the later instar larvae over 120 years ago:

I suspect there are any number of images of the larva of this species "out there" on iNaturalist and other venues but they have been overlooked or unidentified. I guess one could start seaching through unidentified Lepidoptera on iNaturalist to look for similar caterpillars, but that seems to be a very inefficient method. Observers have annotated the host plant (e.g., "Lepidium") on only a very small percentage of such images of caterpillars. Those annotations might point in the right direction, but such instances are unfortunately rare. There needs to be a more efficient way of searching through unidentified caterpillars once a search image for a species (to the human eye) can be established. I'm open to suggestions!

UPDATE: With hours after I posted the above images to BugGuide, the Balabans were able to uncover three additional observations of previously unidentified larvae from NY, NJ, an AL (2016-2021) which all appear to be various instars of Eustixia pupula:
And so, science marches on!

Posted on June 06, 2022 12:41 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 2 comments | Leave a comment

May 05, 2022

A Couple of Tricks for Moth Identification Using MPG

I spend a lot of time trying to identify moths—my own images and moth observations from other iNatters. Aside from the mass of observations already identified on iNaturalist, the most prominent online resource in my arsenal is Moth Photographers Group, maintained by the Mississippi Entomological Museum of Mississippi State University,
There are lots of resources to help with identifications on MPG, including the very useful “Try Walking Through The Moth Families”,
Walk Through Moth Families
I highly recommend that page as a starting point if you are not familiar with moth families, especially the micromoths. I come back to that index time and time again, even though I’ve been studying these darned things for over two decades.

But undoubtedly the majority of my time on MPG is spent combing through the main plates of moth images to try and find a match to the moth of interest. You’ll find two slightly different sets of these plates, both with the same large set of images. The traditional one uses the “Hodges Check List” numbering sequence:
MPG Plate Index

MPG has also arranged the thumbnail plates under the newer “Phylogenetic Sequence”, which uses the “Pohl numbers” from a more recent checklist of Lepidoptera of North America.
It doesn’t really matter which index plate set you use because eventually clicking on any moth thumbnail on MPG will take you to the same species page.

Once you’ve decided which set of moth family thumbnails to look through (from either of the above lists), you have a choice of going to a set of index pages (known as “plates” in MPG terminology) showing either “Collection Specimens” or “Living Moth Photographs” (see the above screen capture). The Collection Specimens have square thumbnail images of the left wings of mounted museum specimens. Anything that has been photographed and uploaded to MPG will be seen on that set, and I’d guess that includes maybe 50 to 70% of the micromoth species and >95% of the macromoths of North America. You’ll see small button links to L, M, and S pages, meaning large, medium, or small size pages. Most modern internet connections and speeds handily support the large format; choosing the “L” format gives you more species on a page and thus fewer thumbnail pages to wander through. Here’s a link to a typical page of Collection Specimen thumbnails and a screen capture of an example of the first line of thumbnails you might see on a typical page of Collection Specimens:
MPG Collection Specimens - Acontiinae
Note that an MPG “plate” for a given family or subfamily will usually have two to several “pages” of images (small numbered buttons just above the family header). Don’t forget to look through all of the pages before moving on to the next (or previous) plate.

The “Living Moth Photographs” are an alternative to the Collection Specimens and it’s tempting to go right to those pages since we are normally trying to identify an image of a live critter, but keep in mind a very important caveat: IF a moth species has NOT been photographed in the field (and the image made available to MPG), it WON’T be on the Living Moth index pages. And a great many moths, especially micromoths, don’t have live photos available, so using only the Living Moth index plates can lead to overlooked possibilities. Always check a potential ID against the Collection Specimen plates to look for similar species. Also, the Living Moth index plates have two options, Slow and Fast. The Slow set displays one line of images per species and often has multiple image for a given species—very useful! Here's a link and a screen capture for a typical Slow page of living moths:
MPG Living Moths - Slow
The Fast set offers only a single image per species, which of course can’t include all the variation within a species—and a reminder, these are only for species which have been photographed alive. Here's a link and a screen capture for a typical Fast page of living moths:
MPG Living Moths - Fast
Again, modern internet and wifi download speeds are such that in most areas, the Slow index plates, with their multiple examples, are very convenient and most useful.

Another fairly recent innovation on MPG which can be useful is the “View by Region”, which allows you to subset all the possible species to view only those for which MPG records are available in a given region of North America or a given state.
MPG Viewing Regions
Links on each side of the View by Region button take you to an explanation of these viewing options and the list of available subsets. But another important caveat: When you look at only a regional subset of all images, it ONLY displays those species for which the MPG database (and map) have an explicit record in that state or region. For common species that’s not a problem, but for uncommon species or something you might be looking for at the edge of its range, MPG may not have a state or regional record for the species—even though the species is illustrated on the full set of MPG plates—and the species won’t show up in your geographical subset. ALWAYS check the full array of species for all of North America if you can’t find a species match in the geographic subset you look through.

One final trick I employ when I really settle into a detailed image search involves the window setup on my desktop computer screen. These searches can involve a lot of clicking back and forth between windows and browser tabs. So I have an advantage with a large screen on my desktop Mac which allows me to set up a search like this:
CWS Screen Arrangement copy
In the above example, you can see that I have my browser open to the MPG Collection Specimen plate, but I also have tabs available back to the original iNat observation and to MPG Living Moths, and to BugGuide as well. To minimize having to click back and forth among tabs (e.g., to iNat), I have downloaded an image from the iNaturalist observation—in this case an unidentified moth from @jcochran706—opened the downloaded image in Preview, cropped the image closely, duplicated it, and rotated the two versions to give me standard MPG angles of view. I arrange the two versions of the image side by side with my browser page so that the visual comparison with either the left-wing museum specimens or the right-facing live moths (standard for MPG) are immediately comparable to the subject iNat moth. The ease of finding a match for a given image of a moth (or any critter) has a lot to do with visual perception and our brain’s pattern recognition abilities. Anything I can do to facilitate those visual and mental processes will make moth identification that much easier.

Easy-peasy, right?!

Acknowledgements: I must always thank Founder Bob Patterson, Editor in Chief Steve Nanz (@steve_nanz), and all the staff and volunteers (such as @krancmm, @blocky, etc.) working on MPG who make this incredible resource available.

p.s. The screen captures of the MPG site above are sourced from the website itself but individual images are copyrighted by the listed photographers.

Moth Photographers Group. 2022. [accessed 5 May 2022].

Posted on May 05, 2022 21:50 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 2 comments | Leave a comment

May 04, 2022

Earliest First-hand Field Photos on iNaturalist?

I was taking a look again at the earliest images that I've scanned and uploaded to iNaturalist. Those date from the late 1960s (see below). There are now thousands of earlier images of organisms on iNaturalist but the majority of them are images of museum specimens of plants, insects, mollusks, etc. So I began looking for the earliest images of organisms in the field, so to speak, using the simple filters on the Explore page.

I quickly had to qualify my search of old observations on iNaturalist. First, I summarily ruled out those museum specimens, and since I wouldn't expect to see photographic field evidence prior to 1900, I started my search at the beginning of the 20th Century. I also disregarded the unfortunate set of modern observations with erroneous observation dates (evident from high quality digital images dated to the 1900's, etc.).

I began to uncover a number of "observations" from secondary sources like images out of newspapers of beached whales, captured sharks, etc., and photos from published research papers. Those certainly provide "evidence" of an organism, but the dates are sometimes estimated or very approximate and the original "observer", i.e. the photographer, is rarely stated. These include such examples as a Pel's Pouched Bat from Niangara, Congo, presumably a captured specimen and dated May 27, 1913, documented in a Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, and uploaded in 2014 by @jakob :

So I began combing through observations chronologically, looking for the earliest first-hand personal evidence of living or recently dead animals or plants.

There is a photo of a public gathering around a Great White Shark, presumably captured off the coast of Turkey in 1920, and uploaded in 2021 by @gorkialkan.

The earliest image of any animal which is not a captured or museum specimen seems to be the following beached Rorqual (Baleen whale) in Tampico, Mexico, dated February 4, 1922. @josecastaneda2 uploaded the image, stating that it is from the digital Historical Archives of Tampico.

The earliest first-person, non-photographic account of an organism seems to be W. C. Russell's notes on Yellow-bellied Marmots ("woodchucks") in Elko Co., Nevada, recorded in his field journal for July 13, 1935, and uploaded by @floydch in 2019:

And--drum roll, please--the earliest first-hand, field photo on iNaturalist of a living organism seems to be this Koala documented in Victoria, Australia on December 31, 1935.
I've left a message for @nimzee, who uploaded the image in 2021, for more details on the photographer, etc. It does not appear to be a commercial or secondary source image, so I'll look forward to learning more about its provenance.

The earliest observations of any plant uploaded to iNaturalist are apparently some European Larch trees in the background of a set of family ski vacation images in the French Alps, taken by L. Hunault in January 1936, and uploaded in 2021 by @mercantour.

It gets a little difficult when trying to pin down the earliest first-hand, first-person photos of an organism, since it isn't often clearly stated that the iNaturalist/uploader was the person who took the image. But there are some likely candidates.
In 2020, @hoaryherper uploaded a couple of herp pics from his childhood. The earliest is one he took of a Blue Racer grabbed by his friend John Evans on June 20, 1949 in Ohio:
@hoaryherper also uploaded an image of himself (taken by John Evans) with a captured Prairie Kingsnake in Pennington Co., South Dakota from June 21, 1955:

@blastcat uploaded a couple pictures of recently-caught fish at Chincoteague, Virginia in June 1955. These are akin to the above documentation of a Great White Shark but these are family photos, in the first instance taken by his grandfather:
Red Drum:

My late pal Greg Lasley got minimal documentation with his dad's Bell and Howell movie camera of an Eastern Cottontail in Shillington, Pennsylvania, on/about September 19, 1962, during a family trip:
And just 10 days later, about Septermber 29, 1962, found himself with his family in La Rochelle, France, using the same camera to document a Gray Heron:

My own earliest personal upload of a first-hand field image dates from May 1969, a butterfly photographed in Taiwan with my first new SLR camera, a trusty Minolta SRT-101:

So I offer a challenge for anyone to mine the iNaturalist database of images to find earlier personal, first-hand, field observations. What can you find?

Posted on May 04, 2022 22:05 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 10 comments | Leave a comment

April 30, 2022

Surprise first-day leading species for Austin's City Nature Challenge

I just glanced at the project page for Austin's City Nature Challenge 2022 and was tickled when I saw the leading species for the first day of the event: Rain Lily!

CNC 2022 Austin 0429

Just like 95% of Texas, much of the Austin area is in moderate to exceptional drought, although the region is split about half and half in and out of the drought areas:

Drought Monitor map Texas 20220426

It was only a brief passing storm system last Monday that prompted the appearance of the rain lilies ... but we'll take 'em!

Posted on April 30, 2022 14:52 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 1 comment | Leave a comment

April 14, 2022

Digital Archives of Scientific Literature

During a recent bioblitz at the Timberlake Biological Field Station, some of us were discussing how to access older scientific literature which might be available in digital form online. I'll have more to say in a follow-up post about my favorite archive, the Biodiversity Heritage Library,
but I thought I'd take a moment to list some other potential online archives which may be useful. Here are some I've discovered. There certainly may be others:

Google Scholar
A good starting place. The results might link to free pdf downloads, pay sites, or only literature citations without digital access, but it's pretty thorough--often too thorough, bringing up distantly related or unrelated titles. You can test it by searching for your favorite plant or animal like "Calyptocarpus vialis", "Jalisco Petrophila", or even a location like "Timberlake Biological Field Station".

JSTOR (a part of ITHAKA)
Accessing articles through their front-end search engine may involve some cost, but JSTOR downloads are available for free through many/most academic institutions (such as University of Texas, Austin Community College, etc.) and even Austin Public Library (with a library card).

The Hathi Trust Digital Library

PubMed Central
Less focused on natural history, per se, but includes many relevant journals. Their Full-Text Archive Search can bring up some surprisingly useful results:

SORA (Searchable Ornithological Research Archive)
A great resource for searching journals like The Auk, Condor, Wilson Bulletin, and a growing list of other bird-oriented publications.

Please feel free to add links to useful resources you are aware of.

Posted on April 14, 2022 15:19 by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 3 comments | Leave a comment