A Birder Spots an Orchid in Algeria - Observation of the Week 2019-05-27

Our Observation of the Day is this sawfly orchid, seen in Algeria by karimhaddad!

Karim Haddad was born in the Algerian city of Constantine but pursued his graduate studies in Odessa, Ukraine, where he earned a PhD in Agribusiness. After being “very touched and inspired by the museums” at Ukraine educational institutions, Karim began to collect “some skins, horns, wood, sperm whale teeth, mollusk shells, old nests, unfertilized eggs, bird feathers, [and] butterflies,” and also got into bird photography.

He now splits his time between the two countries, and has been leading excursions for birders and other naturalists in Algeria since 2016, becoming Algeria’s representative for the African Bird Club in 2018.  

And while birds and bird excursions are a specialty of his, Karim is interested in many other taxa, including orchids like the sawfly orchid he photographed above, which he says are “very exciting, their shapes, colors and sizes attract every naturalist. And that's why I never miss them...the world is so vast and interesting that it can be appreciated all together.”

Sawfly orchids are members of the genus Ophrys, which are also known as “bee orchids.” Members of this genus mimic the pheromones and appearance of female insects, attracting males of those species to the flower. While the male tries to mate with the flower (an act called pseudocopulation), its body picks up pollen which it then brings the next flower, pollinating it. Supposedly the sawfly orchid resembles a female sawfly, which are members of the hymenopteran suborder Symphyta. This orchid is found throughout much of the Mediterranean.

Karim (above, in Constantine c. 2015) is also part of the AquaCirta NGO in Algeria, which chose iNaturalist as a recording platform last year on the recommendation of Dr. Mehdi Chetibi. Since joining last July, Karim has contributed over 4,000 observations and 60,000 IDs to iNaturalist (with archives from his computer still waiting to be uploaded), and he says the direct contact with amateur and professional naturalists from all over the world has “changed my way of interacting and seeing the natural world...

With iNaturalist, you share, you learn, you get to know people and you can rejoice with discoveries. So, I propose this site for all amateurs and specialists without exception in the world of nature.

- The Natural History Museum has a nice video describing pseudocopulation in Ophrys orchids here.

- Here are Eucera nigrilabris bees pseudocopulating with a sawfly orchid.

- Finally, a more poetic and philosophical take on pseudocopulation from the film Adaptation.

- This chart of observations per week in Algeria shows the large impact Aquacirta’s promotion of iNat has had. Thank you so much!

Posted by hannahsun99 hannahsun99, September 05, 2020 10:29


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