November 01, 2023

Afternoon with Mark McGrouther

Was a pleasure getting to spend an afternoon with @markmcg (Mark McGrouther) today. @dhobern introduced me to Mark and @paulflemons from the Australian Museum in 2016. Mark's Australasian Fishes has become one of the most popular projects on iNaturalist and was one of the first to really build a strong community of fish-watchers on the platform. Was great to finally meet in person, thanks for making the trip to San Rafael!

Posted on November 01, 2023 06:26 AM by loarie loarie | 1 comment | Leave a comment

February 02, 2023

Mystery Singapore Giant Pill Millipede Beauty

Most Giant Pill Millipedes are pretty dull colored and not super garish. But there's one that people are posting from around Singapore that has stunningly beautiful colors.

© Lumin Ong, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

I would love, love, love to put a name to this species. I've been collecting observations of it (all identified at the family level) here.

If you know anyone who can help identify this, please comment below. This appears to be the species shown in Figure 1 on Page 4 of Peter Decker's ANNOTATED CHECKLIST OF THE MILLIPEDES (DIPLOPODA) AND CENTIPEDES (CHILOPODA) OF SINGAPORE, but ironically they don't label what the species is in that photo.

Its likely to be one of these four candidates listed for Singapore in the same checklist (each of which I can't find much in terms of field characters on the internet):
Zephronia floweri
Sphaeropoeus malaccanus
Tigridosphaera evansi
Tigridosphaera bimaculata

There's some great photos of it that I found here

Posted on February 02, 2023 11:22 PM by loarie loarie | 1 comment | Leave a comment

January 15, 2023

Identifying Australian Ghost Crabs

According to Sakai & Türkay, 2013, Australia has 5 sp. of Ghost Crab:
O. ceratophthalma
O. cordimana
O. pallidula
O. fabricii
O. convexa

Rae, 2018, The distribution and trophic ecology of Golden ghost crabs (Ocypode convexa) maps all of them except Ocypode pallidula which they describe as "constrained to islands off the Queensland coast, such as Lady Elliot and Heron Islands"

Along with O. pallidula, O. ceratophthalma and O. cordimana are widespread and distinctive. The 2 species endemic to Australia are the Golden Ghost Crab (O. convexa) and the Kimberley Ghost Crab (O. fabricii). I realized that these two species are being confused on iNat with obs of both species being ID'd as O. convexa.

According to Sakai & Türkay, 2013:
O. convexa: Exorbital angles triangular and directed anteriorly.
O. fabricii: Exorbital angles acutely triangular and protruding outward.

I've annotated the images below with arrows pointing at the exorbital angles

Likewise in Sakai & Türkay, 2013 and Table 1 in Jones, 1988, The Occurrence of Ocypode pallidula Jacquinot (Decapoda, Brachyura) in Australia and the Coral Sea
O. convexa:
Ocular styles very short
Median notch of lower orbital deep
Pterygostomial region tuberculate all over its surface.

O. fabricii:
Ocular styles very short
Median notch of lower orbital slight
Pterygostomial region distinctly tuberculate except along lateral sides of buccal cavern.

I've annotated these 3 features in the images below

Its hard to find photos of live crabs in publications but I found 1 in each of Rae, 2018 and Piersma et al., 2016

These photos are consistent with O. fabricii being a more ochre colored, sharper/more angular crab with silver/pale blue eyes while O. convexa is a light yellow colored, rounder crab with jet black eyes.

Thanks to @luccio42, @dariodipas, @possumpete @keirmorse @johneichler and @viviroceania for making their awesome photos available for this post!

Posted on January 15, 2023 04:14 AM by loarie loarie | 4 comments | Leave a comment

January 13, 2023

Identifying Madagascar Ghost Crabs

According to Sakai & Türkay, 2013, Madagascar has 5 sp. of Ghost Crab (although @martinmandak
a 6th in the distinctly pink-kneed O. ryderi on an island thats technically part of Madagascar). The are:
O. ceratophthalma
O. cordimana
O. pallidula
O. pauliani
O. madagascariensis

The first 3 have very large distributions across the Indo-pacific.

O. ceratophthalma is the only one with 'horns' (ocular styles) which makes them easy to spot (but careful, only adults have horns, juvenile ghost crabs are pretty much hopeless to get to species unless you can examine characters almost never visible in iNat photos (reproductive organs or the stridulating ridge on the palm of the hand).

The large claw of both O. cordimanus and O. pallidula are relatively smooth. I'm still not confident what O. pallidula looks like so I'm not totally sure how to separate these (lots of mis-ID'd O. pallidula photos out there I suspect). But if you look in Eastern Australia where only O. ceratophthalma and O. cordimanus are present you'll get a good feel for what O. cordimanus looks like.

The remaining two species are Madagascar endemics or close to that (O. madagascariensis is also found across the the Mozambique Channel along the coast of southern Africa). I wasn't sure how to identify them, but I was aware of some observations of 2 distinctive ghost crabs on Madagascar that I hadn't seen from anywhere else on iNat. So I decided to try to reconcile them with Sakai & Türkay, 2013 and the type specimens (here and here

Bumps on the back

O. madagascariensis has larger bumps (tubercles) on the back that are pretty much the same size across the back. In contrast, O. pauliani has larger bumps towards the side edges of the back and smaller bumps in the middle. This is pretty easy to spot in several of the more in-focus close up photos

Bumps on the larger claw

Both O. madagascariensis and O. pauliani have claws with much larger bumps (tubercles) on them than O. cordimanus or O. pallidula. But of the 2, O. pauliani has a much rougher looking claw with larger fewer bumps. The bumps on O. madagascariensis are smaller and aligned more in rows especially towards the tip of the claw. O. pauliani just gives the impression of a much more tricked out claw than O. madagascariensis (annoying the Sakai & Türkay, 2013 specimen is missing its claw)


Sakai & Türkay, 2013 mentions both of the characters above and they are visible in the specimens. But as usual they don't mention the distinctive color patterns which are so easy to spot in iNat photos but I guess don't preserve well in specimens. In this case adult O. pauliani seem to have striking colors with pale heads with bright orange eyestalks and mouthparts. O. madagascariensis seems much more uniformly sandy colored by comparison.

I feel pretty confident in my conclusions, but would definitely appreciate hearing from the expertise of others. For both of these crabs there don't appear to be any labeled photos of living animals on the web, which is kind of depressingly shocking, so I could be wrong in my logic linking these living animals to the specimens and museum descriptions. But assuming I'm right, its exciting to be able to finally add labels to these striking photos - especially O. pauliani which we have a few obs of and they are beauties for sure!

Posted on January 13, 2023 09:54 AM by loarie loarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Embedding annotated images in journal posts

Someone asked me recently how I embed annotated images in my journal posts, so I thought I'd make this quick post to explain how.

Finding photos

My general approach is to read papers to get a sense for important characters and then find examples in iNat photos that show those characters. When finding iNat images, I always choose once that have licenses so I just have to attribute the observer rather than contacting them for permission. Generally, look for the 'cc' rather than the 'c' on photos you want to use

From the brows photos section of a taxon page you can also search for only photos with certain licenses

Once you find a photo you like, just right click to save locally or just do a screen grab (shift-command-4 on a Mac).

Annotating images

I have a copy of Adobe Illustrator I usually use, but because Illustrator isn't free, for the examples in this post I used Inkscape which is essentially a free version thats perfectly fine. I pretty much just drag photos I've downloaded in and then layer on text and little arrows (just 3 cornered polygons) to point at things. You can save the image in vector format which will keep all the elements separate, but export a png version to use in your journal post.

Uploading images to the web

iNaturalist doesn't let you upload images to journal posts directly so I upload them to Flickr which is free for a certain number of photos that is way higher than I will probably ever use.

Embedding images in journal post

To embed the photos in your journal post, click on the curved arrow on Flickr and choose 'embed' and grab the little bit of text it shows

You can past this whole thing into your journal post

But I make 2 changes. First, I get rid of the anchor tab wrapper to and just keep the img tag bit in the middle so it doesn't link back to Flickr. Second, I replace the width with a percentage and just remove the height and alt tag. This leaves me with this:

When you save and preview or publish your journal post that will render like an image.

I'd love to see more people making journal posts with tips on how to distinguish tricky species - so if you're trying to do that, I hope this helps!

Posted on January 13, 2023 09:18 AM by loarie loarie | 1 comment | Leave a comment

January 11, 2023

Tailless Whipscorpions - Amblypygi

This post is to help me get my head around the Tailless Whipscorpions (Amblypygi) prompted by @sjl197's generous help on one of my obs today.

Global overview

There are 5 families:


Just 1 species (Paracharon caecus) from west Africa


1 genus Charon in Southeast Asia/Oceania


7 genera:
Damon (Africa)
Euphrynichus (Africa)
Musicodamon (Africa)
Phrynichodamon (Africa)
Phrynichus (Palaeotropics)
Trichodamon (South America)
Xerophrynus (Africa)


Restricted to the Neotropics aside from Phrynus exsul on Flores/Rinca Islands in Indonesia:
Acanthophrynus (Mexico)
Heterophrynus (South America)
Paraphrynus (Mesoamerica)
Phrynus (Mesoamerica & Flores/Rinca in Indonesia)


The most speciose family with the broadest geographical distribution (see Miranda et al 2022).
Charinus (a pantropical distribution)
Sarax (arcs from Greece through Asia)
Weygoldtia (around Vietnam)
Catageus (1 sp, Myanmar)

United States

In the US there are 4 regular species all in Phrynidae in the 2 genera Paraphrynus (2 sp Florida and Arizona) and Phrynus (2 sp Florida and Texas). The 2 genera can be separated based on shape of the pedipalp tibial spines (see figs 4 & 5 here). There are 2 spines between the longest 2 spines in Paraphrynus (thank you @mason_s) and just 1 spine between the longest 2 spines in Phrynus (thank you @fmcghee)

Costa Rica

In Costa Rica there are also 4 species in the same 2 genera Paraphrynus and Phrynus.
@sjl197 says that in Costa Rica what that document calls Phrynus gervaisii are now considered Phrynus barbadensis (is there a source for that?). Which would make the 4 Costa Rica species:
Paraphrynus laevifrons
Phrynus barbadensis (rather than Phrynus gervaisii)
Phrynus pseudoparvulus
Phrynus whitei


At the time of this writing I have a couple of questions I want to look into more, mostly to get a handle on North American Amblypygi:

1) How do you distinguish Charinus from Phrynidae in the Americas where they both occur?

2) How do you distinguish Phrynus exsul (the only Old World member of the otherwise New World family Phrynidae) from other Charon species that occur on Flores and Rinca Islands?

3) How do you distinguish the two New world members of Phrynichidae (Trichodamon froesi and Trichodamon princeps) from each other. Are the strikingly wide pedipalps a good way to distinguish them from Phrynidae and Charinus?

4) US and Costa Rica species are pretty straightforward, but what about the ones in between (e.g. Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua)? Are there no Charinus species in these countries? (hard to tell from Miranda et al 2022 Fig 2)

5) Whats going on in the Caribbean? (there it does look like alot of Charinus species are involved)

To dos

1) Read this paper on Colombia as mentioned here

2) Coarsen these obs of Phrynus operculatus that occur south of Guatemala to fix incorrect IDs and/or engage in good conversations if people think this species does extend this far south

Posted on January 11, 2023 12:53 AM by loarie loarie | 1 comment | Leave a comment

January 04, 2023

Silverstoneia flotator vs. Allobates talamancae in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has 7 species of Poison Frogs. Most are very easy to separate based on appearance and/or distribution.

But 2, Silverstoneia flotator and Allobates talamancae, which are actually in completely different families are often confused.

I spent some time doing research on distinguishing these frogs, one great reference is The Dendrobatid Frogs of Central America (1968) by Jay M. Savage*.

While amazingly superficially similar, Silverstoneia flotator has an "oblique lateral stripe" from the groin to the eye that is actually lacking in Allobates talamancae. In Allobates talamancae there is a dorsolateral stripe which looks very similar but it originates above the leg (not in the groin and thus not oblique/diagonal across the body) and extends passed the eye. I've found the best way to tell if you're looking at a oblique lateral stripe (Silverstoneia flotator) or a dorsolateral stripe (Allobates talamancae) is to look at the end that hits the leg/groin. If it hits the groin (oblique lateral stripe) there will usually be some black side of the body color above the stripe visible before you get to the lighter brown dorsal top of the frog. If it hits the leg above the groin (dorsolateral stripe) the stripe itself will be the border between the black side of the body color and the lighter brown dorsal top of the frog.

Also male Allobates talamancae have gray/black throats/bellies which are white in Silverstoneia flotator. And Allobates talamancae are a bit larger (snout to urostyle lengths of 17–24 mm vs 14.4–18 mm in Silverstoneia flotator). Once you go south into Panama, there are other species in the mix (Silverstoneia nubicola, Colostethus pratti, Colostethus latinasus, Colostethus inguinalis, Colostethus panamansis) that make things a bit more complicated. I might update this post with them at some point.

Alot of poison frogs mimic one another to take advantage of learned poison avoidance by predators. I wonder if thats whats going on here, because for being in different families, Silverstoneia flotator and Allobates talamancae sure do look amazingly similar!

Thanks to @wasatch_hunter for posting the awesome photos I made use of here

*The names have changed a bit since the Savage paper, here's a mapping to the current taxonomy
Savage -> current
Dendrobates auratus -> Dendrobates auratus
Dendrobates granuliferus -> Oophaga granulifera (genus change)
Dendrobates pumillo -> Oophaga pumilio (genus change)
Dendrobates speciousus -> Oophaga speciosa (genus change, also extinct)
Dendrobates minutus -> Andinobates minutus (genus change)
Phylobates lugubris -> Phyllobates vittatus/Phyllobates lugubris/Andinobates claudiae (split)
Colostethus inguinalis -> Colostethus inguinalis/Colostethus panamansis (split)
Colostethus latinasus -> Colostethus latinasus
Colostethus pratti -> Colostethus pratti
Colostethus nubicola -> Silverstoneia nubicola/Silverstoneia flotator (split and genus change)
Colostethus talamancae -> Allobates talamancae (genus change)

Savage doesn't include these species, I'm not sure why, maybe not discovered yet?
Andinobates geminisae
Andinobates fulguritus
Oophaga vicentei

Posted on January 04, 2023 09:38 PM by loarie loarie | 6 comments | Leave a comment

November 29, 2022

New Resolving Taxa with Unknown Relationships tutorial drafts

I posted a new 2 section tutorial on Resolving Taxa with Unknown Relationships to our nascent knowledge base here.

@kitty12, @thomaseverest, @xpda, @nschwab, @marceloamores, @invertebratist, @naturalist_aditya, @jeremygilmore, @lehelind, @rynxs, @tiwane, @stevejones, @alberto_colatore, @atotikov, @schoenitz, @beetledude, @t_e_d, @bdagley, @lwnrngr, @thebeachcomber, @reiner, @yorkniu, @rjq
thank you all for being such productive curators (each of you have resolved over 10 taxon flags this past month).

If you wanted to provide any feedback on these drafts I'd be very appreciative. I wrote it with working through this backlog of ~250 relationship unknown fish as the working example - which is a somewhat addictive queue to beat back following the steps in the tutorial if you have some time to kill.

Many thanks for all your help and excellent work as curators and I hope you're having a good start to the Northern Hemisphere winter wherever you are.

Posted on November 29, 2022 06:47 AM by loarie loarie | 5 comments | Leave a comment

November 28, 2022

Arthrosphaera pill millipedes

The ~40 species of Arthrosphaera are confined to Southern India, while eight species are confined to Sri Lanka(2). In list below(10), those with * I was able to find images of in publications:
Arthrosphaera atrisparsa (Butler, 1878) (India)
Arthrosphaera aurocincta Pocock, 1899 (India)*
Arthrosphaera bicolor Pocock, 1895 (India)*
Arthrosphaera carinata Attems, 1936 (India)*
Arthrosphaera craspedota Attems, 1936 (India)*
Arthrosphaera dalyi Pocock, 1895 (India)*
Arthrosphaera davisoni Pocock, 1895 (India)*
Arthrosphaera disticta Pocock, 1895 (India)*
Arthrosphaera fumosa Pocock, 1895 (India)*
Arthrosphaera fusca (Attems, 1943) (India)
Arthrosphaera gracilis Attems, 1936 (India)
Arthrosphaera hendersoni Pocock, 1895 (India)*
Arthrosphaera heterostictica (Newport, 1844) (India)
Arthrosphaera inermis (Humbert, 1865) (India, Sri Lanka)
Arthrosphaera lutescens (Butler, 1872) (India)*
Arthrosphaera madura Pandian, 1966 (India)
Arthrosphaera magna Attems, 1936 (India)*
Arthrosphaera marginella Silvestri, 1897 (India)
Arthrosphaera marmorata (Butler, 1882) (India)
Arthrosphaera nitida Pocock, 1895 (India)
Arthrosphaera pelloceps (Chamberlin, 1921) (India)
Arthrosphaera pygostolis Attems, 1935 (India)
Arthrosphaera scholastica Attems, 1936 (India)
Arthrosphaera severa Attems, 1935 (India)
Arthrosphaera silvestrii Jeekel, 2001 (India)
Arthrosphaera stridula (Verhoeff, 1937) (India)
Arthrosphaera thurstoni Pocock, 1895 (India)
Arthrosphaera transitiva Attems, 1936 (India)
Arthrosphaera wroughtoni Pocock, 1895 (India)*
Arthrosphaera zebraica (Butler, 1872) (India)*
Arthrosphaera versicolor (White, 1859) (Sri Lanka)*
Arthrosphaera attemsi Jeekel, 2001 (Sri Lanka)
Arthrosphaera brandti (Humbert, 1865) (Sri Lanka, introduced to Tanzania)*
Arthrosphaera corrugata (Butler, 1872) (Sri Lanka)
Arthrosphaera dentigera Verhoeff, 1930 (Sri Lanka)
Arthrosphaera ruginosa Jeekel, 2001 (Sri Lanka)
Arthrosphaera rugosa Verhoeff, 1930 (Sri Lanka)
Arthrosphaera leopardina (Butler, 1872) (Sri Lanka)
Arthrosphaera noticeps (Butler, 1872) (Sri Lanka)
Arthrosphaera pilifera (Butler, 1872) (Sri Lanka)

Below, I've shown published images along with the references (linked below) they are from

Arthrosphaera craspedota

References: 1,3,4

Arthrosphaera lutescens

References: 1,3,4

Arthrosphaera magna

References: 2,3,5,7,8

Arthrosphaera fumosa

References: 2,3,5,6,7,8,9

Arthrosphaera disticta

References: 2,3,8,9,11

This drawing and the corresponding description from Pocock(11) of “Arthrosphaera disticta” does not match these. Not sure why:

Arthrosphaera dalyi

References: 3,5,8

Arthrosphaera davisoni

References: 3,5

Arthrosphaera carinata

References: 3

Arthrosphaera zebraica

References: 3,4

Arthrosphaera hendersoni

References: 3,11

Arthrosphaera versicolor

References: 3
This looks very different from the yellow/black “Arthrosphaera versicolor” from Sri Lanka. And according to Wesener(10) Wesener, A. versicolor does not occur in India

Arthrosphaera wroughtoni

References 11

Arthrosphaera thurstoni

References 11

Arthrosphaera bicolor

References 11

Arthrosphaera aurocincta

References 11

Arthrosphaera brandti

References: 10


1 Ambarish, Cheviri Nair, Bombrana Seetharama Kadamannaya, and Kandikere Ramaiah Sridhar. "Chromosome studies on two endemic pill-millipedes of the genus Arthrosphaera (Diplopoda: Sphaerotheriida) from the Western Ghats of India." The Nucleus 56.3 (2013): 205-210.
2 Ambarish, C. N., and K. R. Sridhar. "Observation on pill-millipedes of the Western Ghats (India)." Journal of Agricultural Technology 9.1 (2013): 61-79.
3 Ambarish, Cheviri N., and Kandikere R. Sridhar. "Occurrence, Distribution and Morphological Description of 11 Species of Endemic Giant Pill-Millipedes of the Genus Arthrosphaera (Diplopoda: Sphaerotheriida: Arthrosphaeridae) in Southern India." Proceedings of the Zoological Society. Vol. 71. No. 1. Springer India, 2018.
4 Kadamannaya, B. S., C. N. Ambarish, and K. R. Sridhar. "Morphological features of three endemic pill-millipedes of the genus Arthrosphaera in the Western Ghats of India." Animal Biology Journal 3.4 (2012): 181-193.
5 Kadamannaya, B. S., and K. R. Sridhar. "Morphology and distribution of four pill millipedes (Arthrosphaera) of the Western Ghats." Animal Biology Journal 1.8 (2009): 98.
6 Ambarish, Cheviri N., and Kandikere R. Sridhar. "Diurnal periodicity of three giant pill-‐millipedes (Sphaerotheriida: Arthrosphaera) of the Western Ghats: an ex situ study." Journal of Tropical Asian Entomology 4.1 (2015): 1-10.
7 Sridhar, K. R., and K. M. Ashwini. "Diversity, restoration and conservation of millipedes." Biodiversity in India 5 (2011): 1-38.
8 Ambarish, Cheviri N., and Kandikere R. Sridhar. "Moulting behaviour of the giant pill-millipedes (Sphaerotheriida: Arthrosphaera) of the Western Ghats of India: an ex situ study." The Journal of Tropical Asian Entomology 3.1 (2014): 12-22.
9 Ambarish, Cheviri N., and Kandikere R. Sridhar. "Stridulation and courtship behaviour of four endemic pill-millipedes, Arthrosphaera spp.(Sphaerotheriida: Arthrosphaeridae) of the Western Ghats of India." Proceedings of the Zoological Society. Vol. 69. No. 1. Springer India, 2016.
10 Wesener, Thomas, and Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig. “The giant pill-millipedes, order Sphaerotheriida: an annotated species catalogue with morphological atlas and list of apomorphies (Arthropoda: Diplopoda)”. Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Koenig-Leibniz-Institut für Biodiversität der Tiere, 2016.
11 Pocock, Reginald Innes. "A monograph of the pill-millipedes (Zephroniidae) inhabiting India, Cylon and Burma." Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 12 (1899): 269-285.

Expert interview

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with Dr. Cheviri N. Ambarish, the author of references 1,2,3,4,6,8,9 above who is probably the world's foremost living expert on Arthrosphaera pill millipedes.

We browsed through and discussed various iNaturalist observations

Unfortunately, even through we found many distinctive groups (which I'll hopefully add into this post later) they don't have names and he was only fairly confidently able to ID and put names to observations of the following taxa.

Arthrosphaera fumosa

These have the distinctive smokey bluish color

Arthrosphaera disticta

These have distinctive colors and shapes

Arthrosphaera zebraica

These have distinctive colors,61270177&place_id=any

Arthrosphaera versicolor

While Wesener doesn't list these as occurring in India (only Sri Lanka), Ambarish worked with/photographed them in Reference 3 and was confident that these brownish spotted millipedes were indeed Arthrosphaera versicolor. It could be more study is needed to separate the Sri Lanka Arthrosphaera versicolor from the Indian Arthrosphaera versicolor as they look totally different.,79630224

While super interesting and I've very grateful for Ambarish, I have to say this study was a little frustrating. Clearly, more work is needed on this group to assign names to these taxa before we can identify many of them to species.

Posted on November 28, 2022 05:13 PM by loarie loarie | 1 comment | Leave a comment

October 16, 2022

Sesarma and Armases

In an attempt to learn how to ID more Armases and Sesarma to species, here's a shot at transcribing a distribution map from Abele's A Review of the Grapsid Crab Genus Sesarma (Crustacea: Decapoda: Grapsidae) in America, with the Description of a New Genus. Note Armases elegans is African so not treated here. Abele considers Armases rubripes to be Metasesarma so its not included (Atlantic/South American),

Posted on October 16, 2022 02:31 AM by loarie loarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment