30 de maio de 2024

Panama 2024 - Preliminary Notes

We're just back from a 2-1/2-week Panama vacation that included a week-long birding visit to the Canopy Tower (Panama), a 4-day stay at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve (Chiriquí), and several days with friends in Alto Quiel on the outskirts of Boquete (Chiriquí). As my "teaser" uploads suggest, we encountered an amazing array of biodiversity.

Now comes the task of uploading the bulk of observations from about 5,200 photos and dozens of song recordings. I have no idea at present how many species I documented, much less how many of them were new to me (probably 80 to 90%). Like I've said many times, with apologies to Mark Twain, "Travel is Taxonomically Broadening". I'm going to create some links below which should point to various sets of the existing and upcoming uploads from this foray into the Neotropics. The output from these links will burgeon over the next few weeks (and months?) as I continue to upload.

All 2024 Panama observations
Mammals from 2024 Panama visit
Birds from 2024 Panama visit
All insects from 2024 Panama visit
Butterflies from 2024 Panama visit
Moths from 2024 Panama visit
Hemiptera from 2024 Panama visit
Beetles from 2024 Panama visit
Flowering plants from 2024 Panama visit
ALL of my Panama observations ever

Geeking Out on the Upload Process
I'm still trying to think through how I want to attack this mountain of stuff. There are a couple of pathways and there are upsides and downsides to each. (As an aside, I was paranoid about losing my photos, so I ended up AirDropping all iPhone photos and copying my two SD cards from the Canons to my laptop every night and also periodically offloading the entire set of images from there to a 32-gig thumbdrive.) For some technical reasons, I ended up taking the vast majority of my plant and mothing images with my iPhone 14, the latter with a new Xenvo clip-on lamp (Glowclip Mini from their Pro Lens Kit). The iPhone images provide sufficient, if not perfect, detail on most plants and moths if I don't have to dig deep into taxonomic keys, and the iPhone-Xenvo combination is much more convenient to use than my long-trusted point-and-hope Canon PowerShot cameras. I used the latter, particularly my Canon SX740 SX, for most butterfly and bird photography. For the iPhone photos, I can (and do) upload images directly to iNaturallist from within the iNat app. That's a pretty good option but with my clumsy fingers, it's quite tedious to add any comments to observations at upload in the iOS version of the app. Another issue with the iOS uploads is that, although the locations are carried forward in the metadata at upload, there seems to be no way on the iPhone to modify the automatic placenames added by the iPhone (probably placenames from Apple maps), and these are often generic (state-level) or misleading. The only way to modify them after upload is to get on the website on my computer and edit the location names and that involves a lot of tedious post-processing.

The other basic option for upload is to work from the copies of all my photos which I've now downloaded to my laptop, using the website uploader. This is more akin to my traditional upload pathway and I like it because I have more tools on the computer for any editing and cropping of images (e.g. within Preview, iPhoto, or even Photoshop if needed). The major drawback for working with the laptop versions of the images (which I assume, for instance, are true and faithful copies off the iPhone), is that for some reason the locations for iPhone photos are lost when I AirDrop them to the laptop. That's a major glitch because it then requires me not only to manually add the locations, but to remember where every image was taken! Once again, that adds a lot of tedious effort at upload on the iNat website, even if done in batch mode. Some of these glitches may relate to the fact that I'm working on an older laptop with an outdated OS but at present I can't upgrade or update any further, so I'm stuck with what I have. I may try to attach my iPhone directly to the laptop (by cord) and see if a download bypassing AirDrop will retain the photo locations. I'll be experimenting with all of that today. [Update: I tried to connect my iPhone 14 to the old laptop and my desktop computer but neither has a recent enough OS version that is compatible with the offload process. Sigh...]

If anyone has some advice on these two alternatives or some other pathway, I'll be eager to hear about it. Thanks!

Posted on 30 de maio de 2024, 03:52 PM by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 42 observações | 7 comentários | Deixar um comentário

26 de abril de 2024

Salton Drive CNC 2024

Due to a confluence of external circumstances, I will be limited in my perambulations for this year's City Nature Challenge. That said, I live in a hot spot of urban biodiversity, so my intention is to thoroughly document the fauna and flora of Salton Drive over the period of April 26-29 with every tool at my disposal. I recently (4/24/24, 6 a.m.) did a "trial run" on my moth sheet with a new 395nm blacklight on the back porch and managed to document about 100 species of insects and other invertebrates in about a half hour. The Salton Drive Biodiversity project currently stands at 1,995 species so with some effort and a little luck, I hope to push that up over the 2,000 species threshhold. I'm going to set some modest diversity goals just to prod myself to keep at it:

Mammals: 8 species
Birds (difficult with my equipment): 10 species
Moths: 100 species
Other Insects: 100 species
Other Invertebrates: 25 species
Plants and Fungi: 100 species

I have done much gardening (transplanting, seeding) of native plants in the yard, but for the record, I will only be documenting species and individuals which are native to the lot or have spread of their own accord from my original plantings. Thus species like Crucita (Siam Weed), Plateau Goldeneye (Viguiera dentata), Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus arborea var. drummondii), and Frostweed (Verbesina virginica) in our butterfly garden were originally planted but these have subsequently spread widely elsewhere on the lot.

I'll be doing some blacklighting each night (weather permitting), sweep netting, and dip-netting in the creek. I'll also be trying to use Merlin to record and identify bird sounds and will try to capture images of a few bird species visiting a feeder outside my office window and with my long-standing trail camera which is pointed at the bird bath. Just to be thorough, I'll probably prowl the recesses of my garage to document such commensal species as the silverfish eating all my old papers, etc.

Posted on 26 de abril de 2024, 06:21 PM by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 44 observações | 2 comentários | Deixar um comentário

11 de março de 2024

You Can [Almost] Never Go Home

I just completed a very interesting run to the West Coast. The nominal purposes of the brief (two-week) road trip were (a) to attend a 50th college class reunion at U.C. Irvine, (b) visit SoCal family, and (c) enjoy the early Spring bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I don't get back to Southern California very frequently--twice in the past two years is exceptional. But every time I do, it brings back floods of memories of my childhood upbringing and all the events that occurred in the first 25 or so years of my life.

Relevant to iNaturalist, I got to visit such boyhood haunts in Orange County as Upper Newport Bay (now a Regional Park and Ecological Preserve), Doheny Beach State Park (where I learned to surf), and Crystal Cove State Park (which was once part of the locked-away Irvine Ranch).

At Upper Newport Bay, I had a nice encounter with a pair of the endangered California Gnatcatchers very near the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center. Ironically, I got a Lifer bird species not far away along the hike-and-bike trail--a Swinhoe's White-Eye--although I didn't get a picture of the species. This is apparently a fairly recent colonizer in Orange County; it wasn't on anyone's radar when I published the first compilation of Orange County Birds nearly 50 years ago. Along that hike-and-bike trail, I also documented Coast Cholla on the very bluff where I had once slid downhill as a teenager, impaling my flimsy tennis shoe into a patch of the same cactus. At Doheny Beach, only slightly distracted by a handful of surfers on some nice late winter swells, I came across a large Wavy Turban at the high tide line, one of my all-time favorite seashells. On a backcountry hike in the San Joaquin Hills of Crystal Cove State Park, the abundance of Black Mustard, Poison Hemlock, and Malta Star-thistle along the trail's edge offered a stark reminder that no corner of SoCal remains unscathed by the long-term influences of human activity.

A Prickly Goal

On many such road trips, I'll pick a group of organisms (usually some woody plant genus or family) on which to focus as a target set of species. This allows me to narrow my study preparation and yet in doing so, I can "vacuum up" all the other biotic diversity I encounter in my focal searches. On the recent trip to SoCal, almost by accident I began to realize the high diversity of cholla cacti (genus Cylindropuntia) that I was encountering. I did my best to try to sort them out--only partially successfully--and in the end documented at least eight species in the genus across southern Calfornia and Arizona. (This doesn't include our familiar Christmas Cactus and Tree Cactus which I recall passing by during my first day-and-a-half on the road in West Texas, but didn't bother to document.) For the record, this set included the following species...and I still can't claim to be able to separate all them with any confidence:

Buckhorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa)
Teddybear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii)
Mason Valley Cholla (Cylindropuntia fosbergii)
Chain-fruit Cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida)
Gander's Cholla (Cylindropuntia ganderi)
Coast Cholla (Cylindropuntia prolifera)
Branched Pencil Cholla (Cylindropuntia ramosissima)
Thurber's Cholla (Cylindropuntia thurberi)

Don't quiz me on all of these. Remarkably, this swath of the southwestern U.S. through which I traveled is home to as many as 25 species of cholla plus some hybrids. A prickly identification challenge, indeed!

For the record, here's a link to the full array of my observations on the two-week sojourn to SoCal and back.

Posted on 11 de março de 2024, 02:35 AM by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 13 observações | 2 comentários | Deixar um comentário

31 de janeiro de 2024

My Earliest Documented Observations

概括:1968 年 9 月至 1969 年 11 月,我在美國空軍服役期間駐紮在台灣台北。1969 年夏天,我拍攝了許多蝴蝶和其他動植物的照片。 我最近才開始掃描所有這些舊幻燈片。 可以在此連結中找到觀察結果。

简介: 1968 年 9 月至 1969 年 11 月,我在美国空军服役期间驻扎在台湾台北。1969 年夏天,我拍摄了许多蝴蝶和其他动植物的照片。 我最近才开始扫描所有这些旧幻灯片。 可以在此链接中找到观察结果。

Quick Link: My Observations in Taiwan, 1969

In my effort to upload all my observations of plants and animals, time is not linear...or at least the work to accomplish that task is non-linear. As I scan old slides and upload the records to iNaturalist, I tend to jump around a bit. Hanging over this huge task like a dark cloud have been some of my oldest images of nature. But the clouds are parting and I will soon be offering a set of observations from the year 1969 which will constitute the earliest large batch of usable iNat observations I have available. Here's a bit of the back story:

My training as an ecologist in college was interrupted by a four-year stint in the U.S. Air Force from 1967 to 1971. Long story short, the USAF sent me to a duty station in Taiwan for 15 months in 1968-1969. My interest in nature, dating from childhood, was not diminished during that visit. Quite the contrary. I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan, on/about September 1, 1968. After settling into my duties there, I acquired my first SLR camera, a trusty Minolta SRT 101. I began documenting events around me but by that time it was getting into the winter months. Even in Taipei's subtropical climate, the winter could be cool. I recall seeing snow, at least momentarily, on top of Chihsing (QiXing) Shan, Seven Star Mountain, on the northern outskirts of Taipei that winter. I didn't really get out to explore Nature in northern Taiwan until the following Spring, but thereafter, for the last six months of my stay, I made several forays to the suburbs and countryside and managed to document a modest amount of natural objects.

Those slides from my Taiwan visit have languished in boxes and notebooks for decades. I had previously identified several of the butterflies I'd photographed, but had otherwise done nothing with the slides. Happily most of the rolls of slides have dates stamped on them so that I can generally date the observation to within a month or so--not ideal but for records going back that far, I'll take it. As well, my outdoor destinations were few in number. Scenery slides interspersed with my images of plants and animals allow me to geolocate almost all of the slides fairly closely, down to "county" level or so and most times much more precisely.

The batch of observations I will upload from Taiwan can be found at this link. As I post this journal entry, the link will only have two single butterfly observations which I'd previously scanned and uploaded. But the collection will soon burgeon to some 50+ observations of various fauna and flora. For the record, below are some brief notes about my main destinations and an overview of my efforts.

-- I began seriously trying to document butterflies and other insects in about May 1969 with a majority of the observations made in June 1969. Most of my other records from Taiwan are incidental encounters with other taxa during those efforts.

-- I was friends with a married (USAF) couple who rented an apartment in a northern suburb of Taipei starting in Winter 1968-69. I visited them frequently and took the opportunity the next Spring and Summer to hike locally in that area to enjoy some Nature. I can't recall the specific subdivision they were in, and the area has built up considerably since then. Thus, I am unable to pin-point the neighborhood on Google Earth, but I will put a somewhat broad circle of uncertainty on those observations and have some confidence in the placement.

-- The USAF had leased a recreational beach site for U.S. personnel on the northern coast of Taiwan called "McCauley Beach". It was about 2 miles west of the Yehliu GeoPark. I had no car, but I could access the beach via a USAF shuttle or via a couple of rural (Taiwanese) bus routes. I visited the beach two or three times from June to August 1969 and have many slides from those visits.

-- My last Nature observations in Taiwan date from early October 1969. Typhoon Emily had roared across Taiwan in September 1969 with devestating effects and just a few weeks later Typhoon Flossie brought historical flooding rains to the island. After Emily's passage, I had gone to visit my friends in Taipei (above) on a long weekend break but the rains from Flossie began and we got flooded into their two-story apartment for several days. I photographed a few creatures that floated by or took refuge on the apartment walls and fence during the flooding.

-- After the floods of Flossie receded, I just made it back to my duty station in time to pack up and get ready to return to the U.S. I was back home in SoCal on leave in November 1969.

I don't remember enough of my Chinese Mandarin to properly construct even one intelligible sentence but with the aid of Google Translate, I'm going to insert a brief introduction to these efforts to alert some local iNaturalists in the region. That brief intro will appear in both traditional and simplified characters. I hope it translates well!

Posted on 31 de janeiro de 2024, 03:33 PM by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 2 comentários | Deixar um comentário

28 de janeiro de 2024

Working Through Old Slides and Field Notes

It may be apparent from my recent uploads that I was very busy in the field during the period 1978 to 1980 (and beyond). While a large portion of those records are from my personal birding travels and field research, there was another major source of observations that I accumulated. At the time I was working for a private environmental consulting firm as a wildlife biologist. They sent me to do field work at numerous sites scattered across Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, and as far as Florida and Illinois. I have fair documentation of all of those activities, often with daily bird lists, etc. But at times I wrote field notes with only generalized itineraries, dates, and locations. I have numbers of field checklists which pinpoint some of those efforts. At other times, determining dates and places involves some extrapolation and interpolation.

On most of those efforts I took quite a few habitat images to document the project sites, and no small number of pictures of plants and animals on now-fading Ektachrome slide film. Some, but not all, of the slide rolls had date stamps which, aided by my work calendars and field journals, help associate images with dates and locations. But perhaps 1/3 of the slide rolls lack date stamps. Luckily I had gone through all of those slides many years ago and at least marked a project name or general location (e.g., "Black Mesa, AZ") on the slide boxes. Later on, I organized all the slides in slide sheets and carried over the location information onto those sheets.

My notes and documentation are far from perfect but they have allowed me to properly locate and date the vast majority of the images. For those images with solid dates and locations, the process of scanning the slides and uploading images to iNaturalist is straightforward. Where the slides have little/no associated information and/or my field notes are more generalized, I have been very cautious about assigning places and dates. As a rule, I am only assigning dates and locations to images which I can date to within one week (e.g. +/- 2 or 3 days max) and place at no coarser than a county-level occurrence. For general observations (i.e. nothing rare or out of the ordinary), I hope this is sufficient for the iNat database. And happily, I would estimate that probably 90% of my images, particularly from my college years in the early 1970s up to the digital era starting in the early 2000's, are quite precise on dates and locations. I am still disappointed on occasion when I have some nice images from a project site that lack any notes and for which my memory fails me. Those will never see the light of iNaturalist.

So how many old slides am I working through? I'd have a hard time pinning the actual number down. I recently made a back-of-the-envelope calculation that I probably have something on the order of 10K to 15K slides. Of course, many of those are scenery shots, pictures of family and friends, etc. I would make a guess that perhaps at most 1/4 to 1/3 of all those slides include usable images of some organism. So the raw arithmetic would tell me that I will have eventually scanned anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 images. A quick check of "My Observations" from the dawn of time up through December 31, 2002, so far indicates that I have already uploaded about 1,250 observations of about 900 species (but not necessarily all from slide film). And many of those have multiple images. Looking at the bookcase of binders with all my slides, I'm sure I'm nowhere near half-way done with the task, so the higher estimate of the eventual collection of images may be closer to the final total.

Sorry, gotta go. I have some slides to scan.

Posted on 28 de janeiro de 2024, 03:46 PM by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 3 comentários | Deixar um comentário

25 de janeiro de 2024

Take Good Notes!

It is said that we learn more from our failures than our successes.

I have been a taker of detailed field notes in journals ever since the mid-1970s when the habit was ingrained in me during several Field Ecology classes at the University of California at Irvine. (My eternal gratitude and thanks to Profs. Dick MacMillen, Pete Atsatt, and Phil Rundell). As an avid "Lister" in my birdwatching endeavors, I have also kept relatively detailed records nearly everywhere I've traveled, locally, statewide, out-of-state, and internationally. My 80+ volumes of field journals are also supplemented with field checklists, small spiral notebooks, and my yearly/monthly/weekly "Minders" calendars that I have kept since the 1970s for meetings, appointments, travel notes, important dates, etc. As I slog through the current task of scanning thousands of old slides and uploading usable images to iNaturalist, I have benefitted greatly from all these records of my travels. I really couldn't accomplish these additions to the iNaturalist database without those supporting records.

That's the success of my note-taking system. But I'm not here to dwell on that. It has been a failure of those normally reliable habits that is driving me crazy at the moment and prompting me to post this preachy journal entry. The complicated documentation of this failure of note-taking is on display in this observation of a Glossy Snake, photographed somewhere at some point in 1979:

The short version of the story is that I have great images of the Glossy Snake but virtually no details in my journals about when/where the animal was photographed. The slides have an erroneous (late) date stamp of "Jan 80". They were probably developed from a roll of film that languished in a camera for months. I was pretty sure the observation was a first-hand record; I have Glossy Snake checked off for my Life List on several of my old Peterson Field Guides. But as of this writing, I'm still struggling with trying to sleuth out when/where the animal was documented. The story will continue in the comments and details of the above observation. But the bottom line is:


Don't rely entirely on the modern conveniences of date-time stamps and GPS locations for digital images. Sometimes those are wrong, so it is always smart to have back-up hard copy notes.

This is probably a very difficult, even baffling "ask" of younger generations who are completely comfortable with the aforesaid technology. But forewarned is forearmed. Just sayin' ...

Posted on 25 de janeiro de 2024, 06:31 PM by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 3 comentários | Deixar um comentário

04 de janeiro de 2024

Book Review: Moths and Mothing, Featuring The Moths of the Devils River by David G. Barker

Cover: An Introduction to Moths and Mothing, Featuring The Moths of the Devils River

David G. Barker (@ptexis) has just published a gorgeous volume entitled, "An Introduction to Moths and Mothing, Featuring The Moths of the Devils River" (VPI Library, 2023**). I met Dave Barker for the first time several years ago during an iNaturalist bioblitz at Lake Amistad National Recreation Area, not far the Barkers' getaway home on the Devils River in southwest Texas. Based on mutual interests, we immediately struck up a friendship from which I have benefitted disproportionately.

Barker's lifelong interest in snakes, and in particular his fascination with Gray-banded Kingsnakes, lead him to the Devils River many years ago and it was there that an interest in moths was sparked in 2016. Dave is a keen researcher with an eye for detail and that is evidenced in his research on moths and his photographic skills.

An Introduction to Moths and Mothing (IMM) is a slick, well-structured volume with useful information for moth-ers and nature enthusiasts at all levels of interest. Barker's writing style is down-to-earth, matter-of-fact, and very readable. He uses technical terms with facility but is quick to define each for the general reader. The volume has five introductory chapters describing, in order, "All about Moths", "The Basics of Mothing", "Names and Numbers of Moths", "Identifying Moths", and "Photographing Moths". Dave includes a 9-page ecological introduction to the Devils River, one of the most enticing, important, and biologically fascinating watersheds of Texas. These chapters, each of which is well-illustrated with nicely selected images, are packed with invaluable nuggets, but they are, for me, just a tasty appetizer leading to the main moth entrée.

Just over half of IMM is taken up by Dave's beautifully photographed moths from the Devils River. This is eye candy of a caloric richness that will delight the senses of even the most dispassionate nature observer. The 106 plates display 558 species of moths which Dave documented in just a five-year span. Here Dave's photographic skills are on full display. The generously oversized and well-cropped images show moths in natural poses--not uncommonly with multiple images of variable species. Each image is labeled with the scientific name and the species' "Hodges Number" (i.e., from the Checklist of Lepidoptera of North American). The species are displayed in taxonomic order by Hodges Numbers. There is no biased "selection" of species here; the micros and the macros, the gaudy and the not-so-gaudy are all illustrated. I applaud Dave for this comprehensive presentation. Certainly there will be many more moths to be discovered and documented in this--and every--corner of Texas, but Barker has offered a gorgeous guide to the vast majority of what is known from the region. Importantly, the diverse set of species included by Barker harbors many widespread Texas taxa along with a mouth-watering display of the very special moth fauna which characterizes Southwest Texas.

There are essentially no identification notes accompanying the images but this is explicitly a "photographic guide" to the species and it serves that purpose well. The reader can thereafter consult any of our commonly used resources such as iNaturalist, Moth Photographers' Group, and BugGuide, or the recent Leckie & Beadle field guide (Southeastern U.S., Peterson Field Guide series, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) for ID help. Moreover, because of the geographic focus of IMM, this contribution offers a critical supplement for moth-ers in a larger swath of Texas to what is found in the latter field guide.

The volume concludes with a set of appendices covering a species list, useful references, and a few other tidbits. Perhaps my only minor disappointment with IMM is its lack of an alphabetic index to the moth species included; Appendix 1 "indexes" all the species, but it is not so much an index as just a list of the species, plate by plate, in Hodges order. Appendix 1 contains common names of those moths for which such names are in regular use.

Did I mention Barker's photographic skills? These are emphatically on display in a set of distractingly beautiful "moth pattern images" on interleaves and facing pages separating chapters. Dave has artfully created the several pages by carefully crafting kaleidoscopic compositions of repeated, small, cropped bits of moth wings. There are 15 such pages scattered from cover to cover and--Spoiler Alert--the identities of the moths from which he created the art are listed in Appendix 3. I challenge the reader to take the "quiz" and try to recognize and name the moth contributing to each page before consulting the list of species!

Simply put, this is a must-have volume for anyone interested in Texas moths and, with its informative introductory chapters, it will have a much wider utility for nature lovers in broader regions.

**The volume can be ordered online at: https://vpi.com/galleries/moths-2024.

Disclosure: I was the happy recipient of an early pre-distribution copy of this volume. I thank Dave Barker for that kindness.

Posted on 04 de janeiro de 2024, 04:19 PM by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 0 comentários | Deixar um comentário

23 de dezembro de 2023

A Lichen Moth By Any Other Name

Resumen: La polilla del liquen Nyctochroa basiplaga (Erebidae: Arctiinae: Lithosiini) se encuentra desde México hasta Costa Rica. Al parecer ha sido catalogado, descrito e ilustrado con varios nombres diferentes desde su primer descubrimiento en el siglo XIX. Si todos estos se refieren a la misma polilla, puede haber hasta cinco nombres de especies diferentes asociados con la misma polilla. Aquí profundizo en la compleja historia de esta polilla. Se necesita una revisión taxonómica formal de todos estos taxones.

Take a close look at this image of a lichen moth from Oaxaca, Mexico, photographed by @juanmaguey in October 2019:

(full-size image:) https://inaturalist-open-data.s3.amazonaws.com/photos/181343415/original.jpeg
and then read on, if you dare:

In the course of researching the lichen moth genus Eudesmia, I got sidetracked for the past few days looking up old descriptions of some of the unknown and unrecognized lichen moth species (Erebidae: Arctiinae: Lithosiini) in various checklists. The lists on the FUNET site are particularly useful (Thank You, Markku Savela! See links at bottom of post). Not uncommonly, species described by authors in the 19th Century have bounced around in various genera over the succeeding 150 or so years, and lepidopterists of that era frequently named new species without a comprehensive review of previous taxa, creating numerous synonyms which needed to be sorted out later by subsequent generations of researchers. Such seems to be the case of a lichen moth originally named Nyctochroa basiplaga by Felder & Felder in 1874. That’s the earliest name I can find for a moth that seems to have been named and described anew over and over again. In their massive volumes documenting the “Voyage of the Frigate Novara”, Felder & Felder illustrated this species from Mexico (Vol. 2, pl. 106, fig. 27) and listed it in an index but did not describe it.
Nyctochroa basiplaga Felder 1868 [1874] Voyage pl 106 f 27 copy

Spoiler alert: I think ALL of the following names refer to this same moth which ranges from Mexico to Costa Rica. These are listed alphabetically, then in chronologic order by date of publication. The current generic placement of each species epithet is noted in bold font. [Note: Due to iNat's change of fonts in May 2024, the bold version of their new choice of fonts is not readily separable from the plain font. I'm assured they are working on a solution.]

abdulla Dyar, 1917 [genus Cisthene]
abdulla, Draudt, 1925 [genus Cisthene]
abdulla FUNET [genus Eucyclopera] (accessed 22 Dec 2023)
basiplaga Felder, 1874 [genus Nyctochroa; same on FUNET]
basiplaga, Druce, 1881 [genus Nyctochroa]
basiplaga, Hampson, 1920 [genus Cyanarctia]
carpintera Schaus, 1910 [genus Brycea]
carpintera Hampson, 1920 [genus Cyanarctia]
carpintera FUNET [genus Eucyclopera] (accessed 22 Dec 2023)
ira Druce, 1889 [genus Ptychoglene; also Druce in BCA]
ira Hampson, 1900 [genus Euryptidia]
ira Draudt, 1919 [genus Euryptidia]
ira Scott Chialvo et al, 2018 [genus Euryptidia]
ira NHM(UK) [genus Paratype; listed on FUNET] (accessed 22 Dec 2023)
lithosiaphila Dyar, 1910 [genus Hypomolis]

In 1889, Herbert Druce described a moth from Mexico essentially identical to that of the Felders' as Ptychoglene ira (Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (6)4:90), calling it a “very distinct species”, and illustrating it in the Biologia Centrali-Americana (BCA Lep-Het 2:398; 3: pl. 78, fig. 6).
Ptychoglene ira Druce BCA 3 78-6 edit copy
Curiously, also in the BCA (Lep-Het, I, p. 155, 1881), Druce had dutifully listed the Felders' Nyctochroa basiplaga but noted that it was “unknown to me.” In his 1900 Catalogue of the moths in the British Museum, Hampson moved ira into the genus Euryptidia, probably based on wing venation characters.

Perhaps unaware of the Felder volumes or the BCA (?), Harrison Dyar published a new species from Mexico in 1910, Hypomolis lithosiaphila (Proc. USNM 38:235, published on June 7, 1910). His description, although typically brief, is quite similar to the moths illustrated by Felder and Druce.

Complicating matters, just four months later in October 1910, unaware of Felder’s, Druce’s, or Dyar’s species, William Schaus described a “new” lichen moth Brycea carpintera (Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (8) 6 (34):406) from Costa Rica which is apparently identical to the earlier species.
This is a classic case of researchers in that era working at cross-purposes or quite ignorant of each others' efforts. [Historical sidenote: Schaus, a native New Yorker, spent much time in London as well as traveling in Central and South America collecting Lepidoptera. He later became associated with the U.S. National Museum in about 1919, working alongside Harrison Dyar. Their interesting and sometimes contentious relationship is chronicled by Marc Epstein in his biography of Dyar, "Moths, Myths, and Mosquitos", Oxford University Press, 2016.]

In 1917, Dyar named yet another lichen moth from Mexico, this time placing it in the genus Cisthene, as Cisthene abdulla (Insec. Inscit. Mens. 5(1-3):10), but once again the description is essentially identical to Felder’s basiplaga, Druce’s ira, Dyar’s own lithosiaphila, and Schaus’s carpintera. Dyar's placement of his new species in "Cisthene" followed Hampson's concept of the latter genus which now mainly refers to Eudesmia lichen moths (sensu lato; see Sexton 2022). Neither genus represents a satisfactory placement of abdulla (see Draudt's and Seitz's notes, below).

So by 1920 there were five names in five different genera for essentially the same type of lichen moth. The descriptions were almost identical word for word, and Felder’s and Druce’s images were similar enough to suggest that they were probably the same species, unless there was some interesting mimicry complex in play!

In his 1920 supplement to the Catalogue of Leps in the British Museum, Hampson rearranged some of these species at the genus level, placing them in the genus Cyanarctia, carrying C. carpintera forward as a valid species, but lumping Dyar’s lithosiaphila under Cyanarctia" basiplaga (Cat. Lep. Phal. Br. Mus. Suppl. 2:328-329). Hampson did not address Dyar’s Cisthene abdulla, probably because the British Museum had no specimens at hand. In moving Felder’s basiplaga to the genus Cyanarctia and lumping Dyar’s lithosiaphila with it, he confessed, like Druce, that the species was “unknown to me”, As a fallback choice, Hampson illustrated only the USNM type specimen of Dyar’s lithosiaphila. His illustration looks veeery familiar!
Cyanarctia basiplaga Hampson 1920 pl 57 f 12 copy

Draudt (in Seitz, "1913", Macrolepidoptera of the World, vol. 6, p. 467, and pl. 39 row l; published in a 1925 supplement entitled, "Additions: Lithosiinae") listed Cisthene abdulla Dyar, and added a note that "this insect [probably] coincides with Cyanarctia basiplaga = Hypomolis lithosiaphila." Later in that same "Additions" supplement, Seitz himself went on to (apparently) synonymize Cyanarctia basiplaga (Felder), lithosiaphila Dyar, Cisthene abdulla Dyar, and Cyanarctia carpintera (Schaus). This seems to leave only Ptychoglene/Euryptidia/Paratype ira out of the fold.
Cisthene abdulla Draudt 1925 pl 39 row l

This species—or this set of names—has not been addressed in detail in nearly a century. There has been a lot of recent research on the biochemistry and phylogenetics of Tiger and Lichen Moths, and even a comprehensive catalogue of a portion of the Neotropical Arctiinae, but none of these efforts have addressed the present set of named species in any useful manner. Scott Chialvo et al. (2018; in the online journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution) included Euryptidia ira in their molecular studies but did not include any of the other “species” mentioned above and came to no conclusions on the proper placement of ira in the grand scheme of things. To my knowledge, @juanmaguey's image (above) is the First Photograph of a Living Specimen of whatever species it is, although there are piles and piles of unidentified Tiger and Lichen Moths in Mexico and Central America. I wandered through them earlier today and did not find any other obvious candidates for this taxon.

So I’m just proposing that Seitz in his 1925 "Additions" was mostly correct, namely, that the several names, in several genera as listed above, all represent the same lichen moth. It will fall to researchers with access to museum specimens and all the modern tools of taxonomy to sort this all out and confirm or refute my guess.

Here are links to Markku Savela’s pages on FUNET for these various species, in the genera where they are currently listed:

Posted on 23 de dezembro de 2023, 10:38 PM by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 3 comentários | Deixar um comentário

18 de dezembro de 2023

Schwarz’s Lichen Moth Elevated to Species Status

I just got my copy of the brand new Pohl & Nanz “Annotated Taxonomic Checklist of the Lepidoptera of North America, North of Mexico” (Wedge Entomol. Res. Foundation, 2023). In it (p. 339), I see that Schwarz's Lichen Moth, Cisthene schwarziorum, has been elevated to species status (revised status) and is no longer considered a “western subspecies” of the Thin-banded Lichen Moth (C. tenuifascia). In that listing, Chris Schmidt (@neoarctia), author of the family Erebidae in the Checklist, does not cite references for the change, only mentioning that it is “based on differences in DNA and genitalic morphology”. This status change has been long anticipated. I previously addressed the identification of schwarziorum in field images in one of my Cisthene ID journal posts six years ago:

Schwarziorum was originally described as a full species by Dyar in 1899 but his schwarziorum was based on two specimens, one from Arizona and another from Vera Cruz, Mexico. The latter specimen has subsequently been determined to be the Tamaulipan Lichen Moth (C. subrufa, det. by Knowlton, 1967). Knowlton’s revision of the genus (1967, p. 70) placed Dyar’s Arizona schwarziorum as a synonym of tenuifascia, but provided only minimal details on that population. There is much variation in the color patterns of each species but below are the basic details of how to separate the two species in photos:

Cisthene schwarziorum (Dyar, 1899)
Cisthene schwarziorum, Graham Co., AZ; 22 Aug 2022; ph. C. Sexton

Cisthene tenuifascia Harvey, 1875
Cisthene tenuifascia, Mills Co., TX; 5 Oct 2019; ph. C. Sexton

Recognizing Schwarz’s Lichen Moth is fairly apparent in Arizona but trickier elsewhere. A large collection of images on iNat from Arizona correspond to the typical schwarziorum pattern with a complete, relatively broad yellowish PM band, an elliptic basal yellow patch which usually does not quite reach the PM band on the inner margin, and a ground color which is quite blackish. The color patches are usually pale to deep yellow but many examples are much oranger; these may represent fresher specimens:
Presently, another set of 80+ images in Arizona on iNat currently listed at species level as “Thin-banded” all appear to refer to proper Schwarz’s Lichen Moth and will need to be addressed individually:
As currently conceived, true Thin-banded Lichen Moth is not known to occur in Arizona.

In New Mexico, not unexpectedly from a biogeographical standpoint, a small number of observations in the s.w. part of the state appear to refer to Schwarz’s Lichen Moth, while a set of records from Albuquerque eastward (i.e. east of the Rio Grande) appear to be proper Thin-banded Lichen Moths:
I tentatively put the ID of schwarziorum on a single observation in Utah, but my confidence in that ID is marginal:

Two observations on iNat from Sonora, Mexico are similar to the Arizona set:
A disjunct set of observations in southern Mexico appear very similar to schwarziorum and deserve more detailed taxonomic study.
Jalisco: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=7411&taxon_id=564194
Oaxaca: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=8295&taxon_id=217048
Chiapas: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=97003&taxon_id=217048

Posted on 18 de dezembro de 2023, 05:35 AM by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 2 comentários | Deixar um comentário

07 de dezembro de 2023

Reflections on My 10-year iNat-iversary.

Gee, I ought to get outdoors more...

My health suffers because of iNaturalist. I spend far too much time at the computer and snack on too much junk food as I try to identify obscure moths for other people. The hours of screen time by day leave me with that visual/biochemical hangover at bedtime that all the doctors have warned us about. I lay awake at night in bed, worrying why I can't identify that fungus gnat that seems so distinctive to me. But I'm up the next day, composing an iNat journal post that will thrill about three people around the World, yet tearing my hair out trying to get the formatting to work, or worrying that my Spanish grammar in the brief resumen will make me look estúpido.

Who will be the next person to block me? or disagree with one of my identifications? or, worst of all, properly correct one of my erroneous IDs? I will be humiliated. No one will like me. I will have alienated 2.9 million other human beings scattered around the globe. I won't be able to show my face anywhere....

Wait a minute! Outdoors! I can go out-of-doors! Into Nature! I won't have to interact with my own species for a time. I can recharge my mental batteries. My lithium batteries are all charged up and I only have to open the door and step out.

Ah, the Fresh Air! The sounds of Nature! What a beautiful trail I'm on. There's birds--and I know all of their sounds--and butterflies--and I can name them all--and beautiful flowers and plants--the entire ecology of which I can expound upon at length...to myself, under my breath. And there's a moth, but it flies away too quickly. "I'll see you at the moth sheet tonight, my friend!" And look at this fancy lichen on the oak branch; I can put a name to this one! And that mushroom over there--I know someone who can help me ID that--and the same for that hoverfly on that daisy, and I think I remember the family name for this creepy little millipede under the log.

Uh, Oops! Aaaagh! I've slipped on the leaf litter and fallen and broken my wrist! Oh, the pain...the agony! The frustration...the hassle...the expenses! At least I broke my wrist in a lovely location. And I was smart enough to break my off-hand, my left. I'm well reminded that the outdoors is a dangerous place!

Boy, will I be glad to get back to my computer and rejoin my Community. Safe, secure, accepted. Nature is so interesting....online.

Posted on 07 de dezembro de 2023, 05:28 PM by gcwarbler gcwarbler | 3 observações | 30 comentários | Deixar um comentário