May 04, 2022

Australian moths and the influence of Victor Fazio III

On iNaturalist, moths are a big deal in Australia. Indeed, at the end of last month, we surpassed 400,000 Australian moth observations on iNaturalist, so there's no better time to take a dive into this amazing group of insects.

As of early in the morning on 4 May 2022, 426,206 observations of moths in Australia have been uploaded to iNaturalist. These observations cover 5,479 species; although there are of course many undescribed (and undiscovered) species, the Australian Faunal Directory currently lists 10,432 Australian moth species, meaning we've already managed to document 52.5% of all described Australian moths. This number continues to grow at an impressive pace; in November 2020 it was 42.9%, and in December 2021 it was 49%, with almost 400 new species documented in the 5 months since. Moths make up almost 40% of all Australian insect observations on iNaturalist, and indeed constitute over 12% of all Australian observations across all taxa!

Although these statistics are certainly the result of an amazing group effort, with moth observations contributed by 10,807 users and identified by 2,767, one user stands head and shoulders above the rest, a titan of Australian moths on iNaturalist: @vicfazio3.

Without Vic, the Australian iNaturalist moth community would never have reached its current lofty heights; noone has done more for Australian moths on the platform. While his 137,261 identifications of Australian moths is incredible in its own right, this statistic becomes more amazing when you realise the second most prolific identifier has made 25,142 identifications, more than 100,000 below Vic. These identifications have been made for almost 5,000 users, representing a tremendous teaching effort and transfer of knowledge. Whether it's micromoths just a few millimetres in length, majestic emperor moths, or the thousands of obscure brown ones in between, Vic's knowledge is unparalleled. Indeed, the nature of moths truly highlights the breadth and depth of Vic's expertise. In taxa such as birds or butterflies, it is typically easier to gain the knowledge to identify many species. In a hugely diverse group like moths, where thousands of species are fairly uncharismatic and look quite similar to each other, it's much tougher to build the expertise to be able to confidently identify taxa from more than a handful of families or tribes, but Vic has managed to do exactly that.

But Vic is not just the go-to identifier for Australian moths; he's also a tremendously prolific observer. He currently sits second on the all-time iNaturalist observers list of Australian moths, with 26,384 observations across 1,290 species. For any regular iNaturalist users, Vic's observations are instantly recognisable: high quality photographs showing his trademark large mesh moth netting, most of them from around his home in the Manning Valley. Many of the moths photographed and uploaded by Vic represent the only photographs of those species on iNaturalist.

Vic has also written 27 journal posts on iNaturalist covering a broad range of invaluable topics, including taxonomic disputes and discrepancies, ecology, misidentifications, and BOLD. All of them are well worth reading.

Some of Vic's most valuable contributions are less tangible with respect to his personal stats. One of these is his tremendous generosity with his time and his endless patience. I have lost track of the number of times that I have tagged Vic to look at my moth observations, so I can only imagine the number of times he gets tagged by every other user as well. And for each and every tag, Vic always responds, either with an identification or a thoughtful comment pointing me in the right direction. The second is the great number of taxonomic discrepancies and pervasive misidentifications that he's resolved. On countless occasions, Vic has uncovered a species which has been misidentified en masse across iNaturalist, determined the correct identification, and then passed on this knowledge to other users. These corrections are crucial for improving the quality of data on iNaturalist (and by extension, the ALA and GBIF, into which these data flow). The third is the huge impact Vic's identifications (and observations) have had on iNaturalist's Computer Vision. A few years ago, uploading an Australian moth and trying to use the CV to suggest a species was a dead end unless you had observed something very common (think Scopula rubraria) or highly distinct (think Cosmodes elegans). Now, there are ~700 Australian moth species that can be offered as suggestions by the CV!

Across all taxa, Vic sits 2nd on the list of all time identifiers for Australia, 6th for all time observers in Australia, and indeed has the 56th most identifications out of any iNaturalist user anywhere in the world (out of almost 250,000), having made an incredible 203,098 identifications. Vic is one of the most important, prolific and recognisable contributors to iNaturalist, having been part of the platform for more than eight years. Here's to Vic.

Posted on May 04, 2022 08:37 by thebeachcomber thebeachcomber | 2 comments | Leave a comment

April 27, 2022

Australian Agaristinae

Agaristinae is a charismatic subfamily of moths within the family Noctuidae (although sometimes treated as its own family, Agaristidae). Many species are brightly coloured or well-patterned, are highly active during the day, and are often mistaken for butterflies

According to the Australian Faunal Directory, there are currently 44 described species of Agaristinae in Australia across 21 genera.
This number should actually be 45 (and the genera 22), as there are records of the poorly known species Sarbanissa diana from Christmas Island despite it not being listed by the AFD. I can only assume there are also some undescribed entities (e.g., on BOLD), but for now I assume this covers all the known entities.

So how complete is Agaristinae in Australia on iNaturalist?

As of writing (27th April 2022), there are 3,504 Australian observations across 36/45 species (and within all 22 genera).

Agarista (1 species)
Agarista agricola

Agaristodes (1 species)
Agaristodes feisthamelii

Apina (1 species)
Apina callisto

Argyrolepidia (3 species)
Argyrolepidia aequalis
Argyrolepidia fractus
Argyrolepidia thoracophora

Burgena (1 species)
Burgena varia

Coenotoca (2 species)
Coenotoca subaspersa
Coenotoca unimacula

Comocrus (1 species)
Comocrus behri

Cremnophora (1 species)
Cremnophora angasii

Cruria (6 species)
Cruria donowani
Cruria epicharita --> zero observations
Cruria kochii
Cruria latifascia --> zero observations
Cruria synopla
Cruria tropica

Eutrichopidia (1 species)
Eutrichopidia latinus

Hecatesia (3 species)
Hecatesia exultans
Hecatesia fenestrata
Hecatesia thyridion

Idalima (5 species)
Idalima aethrias --> zero observations
Idalima affinis
Idalima leonora
Idalima metasticta
Idalima tasso --> zero observations

Ipanica (1 species)
Ipanica cornigera

Leucogonia (2 species)
Leucogonia cosmopis
Leucogonia ekeikei

Mimeusemia (3 species)
Mimeusemia centralis
Mimeusemia econia --> zero observations
Mimeusemia simplex --> zero observations

Periopta (2 species)
Periopta ardescens
Periopta diversa

Periscepta (2 species)
Periscepta butleri
Periscepta polysticta

Phalaenoides (2 species)
Phalaenoides glycinae
Phalaenoides tristifica

Platagarista (1 species)
Platagarista macleayi

Radinocera (2 species)
Radinocera maculosus --> zero observations
Radinocera vagata

Sarbanissa (1 species)
Sarbanissa diana

Zalissa (3 species)
Zalissa catocalina
Zalissa pratti --> zero observations
Zalissa stichograpta --> zero observations

So where should we be looking for the 9 unobserved species according to ALA records?

Cruria epicharita

Cruria latifascia

Idalima aethrias

Idalima tasso

Mimeusemia econia

Mimeusemia simplex

Radinocera maculosus

Zalissa pratti

Zalissa stichograpta

Most of the 9 unobserved species have distributions confined to the Wet Tropics, from ~Cairns northwards.

Perhaps the most interesting species is Zalissa stichograpta, which is represented by a single record on the ALA, the type specimen collected in 1930 from the Bunya Mountains in SE Queensland.

@imcmaster @vicfazio3 @nicklambert @dustaway @domf @cher63 @kenharris @wellsii @dianneclarke @daviaker @hdavid @tas56 @reiner @larney @peregrine80 @ecosse28 @dhobern @davidtng @ianmcmillan @mattcampbellaus @kdbishop69 @dhfischer @sarahcobbaus @johnlenagan @jb2602 @urliup-wildlife-sanctuary @matthew_connors @paul2george @koolah @wambledyn @carolynstewart @eremophila @possumpete @dj_maple @d_kurek @gregtasney @bushbandit @kallies @leoncrang @ethanbeaver @ellurasanctuary @gumnut @twan3253 @benkurek__ @cesdamess @elainemcdonald

I have definitely missed out on tagging people here, so please tag anyone that I've forgotten

Posted on April 27, 2022 10:56 by thebeachcomber thebeachcomber | 16 comments | Leave a comment

April 20, 2022

Setting up projects with 'Australia' as a place filter

As a heads up for anyone that either runs an existing project (or intends to make a project) with Australia as a place filter, there are a number of external territories that are not included in 'Australia' as a place on iNat, and must instead be added manually as additional places. These are:

Lord Howe Island
Christmas Island
Cocos Islands
Heard Island and McDonald Islands

Another useful addition is the waters around Australia, i.e., the Australia Exclusive Economic Zone

Similarly, if you have a project with NSW set as the place filter, you must also manually add Jervis Bay Territory as an extra place, otherwise observations from Jervis Bay won't be included

Here are the iNat codes for all these places:

Australia - 6744
Lord Howe - 18651
Christmas - 7616
Cocos - 10287
Heard/McDonald - 10293
Waters - 118147
Jervis Bay - 96781

Posted on April 20, 2022 09:33 by thebeachcomber thebeachcomber | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Commonly confused pairs of Australian arthropods

In the invertebrate world, there are many groups of cryptic species for which identification is difficult, or even impossible, from photographs due to their similar morphology and colouration. In some cases, a single identification gets applied indiscriminately to multiple different (and sometimes even unrelated) species; for example, the name Amenia imperialis is very commonly used for not only true A. imperialis, but all the other Amenia species, and a number of lookalikes (e.g., Rutilia) in an entirely different family. Not only are many online records (on iNaturalist and elsewhere) putatively of A. imperialis not that species, in most cases the photographs do not allow an identification to species anyway.

However, there are many instances for which it is possible to readily differentiate between several similar options. On iNaturalist, there are a number of invertebrates for which two common, morphologically similar species are often confused for each other, but are relatively easy to identify once you know what to look for. In many of these cases, the computer vision will offer both species as suggestions, creating further uncertainty. In this guide, I present ten pairs of commonly observed, and commonly confused, Australian arthropods, and highlight how to differentiate them. A number of these pairs have distributional differences between the two species that can help with identifications in some cases, but I will focus only on morphology here. Note that for all ten pairs there are far more differences between the two species than I have noted, but I have highlighted the most prominent differences/those that are easiest to see.

1 . Trichonephila edulis and Trichonephila plumipes (females)


Above, left: @jacksonnugent
Above, right: @kymelen


Above, left: @bushrevival
Above, right: @pardalotebellion

2 . Nyctemera baulus and Nyctemera amicus


Above, left: @cher63
Above, right: @vicfazio3

3 . Coelophora inaequalis (merged spot morph) and Micraspis frenata


Above, top left: @thebeachcomber
Above, middle left: @imcmaster
Above, bottom left: @jantly
Above, right: @reiner

4 . Papilio aegeus (female) and Papilio anactus


Above, top left: @halobaena
Above, bottom left: @thebeachcomber
Above, top right: @richie_south

5 . Nyssus coloripes and Nyssus albopunctatus


Above, left: @tjeales
Above, right: @debtaylor142

6 . Graphium choredon and Graphium eurypylus


Above, top left: @debjoliver
Above, bottom left: @scottytar
Above, top right: @dddwebbb
Above, bottom right: @dan_bishop

7 . Ptomaphila lacrymosa and Ptomaphila perlata


Above, top left: @mattcampbellaus
Above, bottom left: @vicfazio3
Above, right: @ianmcmillan

8 . Hemicordulia tau and Hemicordulia australasiae


Above, top left: @happywonderer
Above, bottom left: @ecologibel
Above, top right: @reiner
Above, bottom right: @benjaminlancer

9 . Delias harpalyce and Delias nigrina


Above, left: @karenmcgregor
Above, right: @nmain

10 . Mictyris longicarpus and Mictyris platycheles


Above, left: @thebeachcomber
Above, right: @w_martin

Posted on April 20, 2022 08:36 by thebeachcomber thebeachcomber | 6 comments | Leave a comment

February 22, 2022

Big Bushfire BioBlitz

For anyone interested, @alpine_flora_of_australia and I are running three big bioblitzes over the next 3 weekends:

25-27 February = Blue Mountains (Blackheath base camp)
4-6 March = Washpool + Gibraltar Range NPs, NSW North Coast
11-13 March = Murramarang NP, NSW South Coast

There'll be stacks of experts leading walks and surveys.

Registration available at https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/big-bushfire-bioblitz-registration-206905017477

Also feel free to join any of the projects at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/big-bushfire-bioblitz-umbrella.

Schedule for this weekend's blitz at the Blue Mountains available at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-9s6M8-yfIn0ycMWMieg9SiVEPkIYEC_F9QJZ4wE7k4/edit?usp=sharing

Would love to meet some of you in person :)

Posted on February 22, 2022 03:38 by thebeachcomber thebeachcomber | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 20, 2021

Get on board the new Xmas beetle project

Unsure how many of you have seen it, but there's a new Xmas beetle project operating at the moment: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/christmas-beetle-count

It's a collection, so obviously nothing extra needed on your end from the admin point of views, but if you can would be great to try boost your obs over this summer :) All IDs welcome of course too

Note that it's not just Anoplognathus being collected, but also Calloodes, Cyclocephala, Repsimus and Xylonichus.

Tagging all the beetle usuals that haven't joined the project yet (I know I've missed heaps of people, so apologies in advance...)

@reiner @twan3253 @johneichler @vicfazio3 @nicklambert @rhytiphora @ellurasanctuary @imcmaster @johnlenagan @d_kurek @matthew_connors @cesdamess @dhobern @kenharris @cher63 @martinlagerwey @dianneclarke @ianmcmillan @dustaway @tjeales

Posted on November 20, 2021 00:06 by thebeachcomber thebeachcomber | 2 comments | Leave a comment

May 13, 2021

Seashell field guide finally out!

As some of you may know, I've spent the past 4 years or so working on a seashell field guide; that guide is now published!

Seashells of North Haven Beach is a comprehensive, 200+ page guide to every seashell species I've ever found at North Haven Beach on the midnorth NSW coast. But the handy thing is that almost all of the species in the guide are found across all of NSW, and indeed most of them are found around the entirety of southeastern Australia (or even circum-Australia), so it's still useful for Victoria, Tassie, SA, etc.

All up it features 95 gastropods, 57 bivalves, 2 chitons and Spirula spirula. Every species gets an entire page, with full colour photographic plates and shots of every species from at least 2 angles. And of course all of the taxonomy is updated :)

As well as all of the common species you'll regularly encounter around southeastern Australia, the guide also includes some very rare species that feature in extremely few, if any, guides, such as Lyria laseroni, Recluzia lutea, Leiopyrga cingulata and Acteocina apicina.

Now I need to start working on the second edition...

Posted on May 13, 2021 11:08 by thebeachcomber thebeachcomber | 4 comments | Leave a comment

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