What's the world's most observed insect genus? and more thoughts on iNat observability

What is the world's most observed insect genus? On iNat at least, I think the answer is Bombus, the bumble bee. Globally, 22,000+ iNat observers have recorded over 72,000 verifiable Bombus observations (1.34% of all insect observations), followed by Common Swallowtails (Genus Papilio, 26k+ observers, 68k+ observations, 1.27% of insect observations), Tiger Milkweed Butterflies (Genus Danaus, 20k+ observers, 63k+ observations, 1.18% of insect observations), Ladies and Related Admiral Butterflies (Genus Vanessa, 19k+ observers, 56k+ observations, 1.06% of insect observations), Honey Bees (Genus Apis, 25k+ observers, 56k+ observations, 1.05% of insect observations), and King Skimmers (Genus Libellula, 8k+ observers, 39k+ observations, 0.74% of insect observations). If iNat was more popular in African and Asian countries and not so biased to North American observers, you might see genera like Orthetrum, another dragonfly (2k+ observers, 11k+ observations), among that list.

What affects the observability of a genus or other taxon? Whether on iNat or in general, I think the most important factor is habitat accessibility. If a taxon doesn't occur on the road system, occurs in a habitat away from human population centers, and/or can't be easily observed from dry land, then I suspect that the taxon is unlikely to ever be among the most observed on iNat. Aside from accessibility, I think you probably need at least two of the following four factors, and the more the better, to boost both detectability and observability:

Common: the degree to which a taxon is present and abundant.

Charismatic: the degree to which a taxon appeals to people. Charisma is obviously somewhat in the eye of the beholder, but broadly, it appears to be a detectable influence on what humans care about in nature (e.g., paper: Human preferences for species conservation: Animal charisma trumps endangered status).

Conspicuous: the degree to which a taxon is notice-able and visible. For example, a taxon that is diurnal, brightly colored or highly contrasted, large-bodied, and/or perches in the open is more observable than a nocturnal, dull-colored, microscopic thing that resides in the soil or thick vegetation.

Camera-friendly: the degree to which a taxon is photograph-able. I'm not quite sure if/how this might differ from a taxon being conspicuous, but something about taxon staying still in well-lit situations. To the extent that iNat observations are increasingly made via the app, this factor increasingly means smartphone camera-friendly.

In many areas (outside of Africa and Australia) and for many people, I think bumble bees probably hit all four, and are a top candidate to be the world's most accessible/common/charismatic/conspicuous/camera-friendly and thus observed insect genus.

Tagging some of the most frequent Bombus observers and identifiers: @alexis_amphibian @erikamitchell @dleaon1 @tony_wills @jenniferf4 @tmarkolivier @beeboy @czbgbuzztroop @johnascher @rustybee @mdwarriner @hadel @pfau_tarleton @heatherholm @malisaspring @haukekoch @rjm2 and more general insect iNat'rs @borisb @nlblock @edanko @brandonwoo @maractwin @greglasley @sambiology @treegrow @judygva @treichard @vicfazio3 @finatic @loarie @carrieseltzer @tiwane who likely have additional thoughts on what affects the observability of an insect taxon. Image #1: a fuzzy-horned bumble bee (B mixtus) in Whittier Alaska, Image #2: a global snapshot of iNat Bombus observations, Image #3: a possible Fernald's cuckoo bumblee bee (B fernaldae) in Kenai Alaska.

PS What is the world's most observed genus overall on iNat? Hint #1: it's in the birds. Hint #2: it's among these candidates: Dabbling Ducks (Anas) vs Great Herons (Ardea) vs Typical Thrushes (Turdus) vs True Sparrows (Passer) vs Buteo hawks (Buteo). Without looking, leave your guess in the comments below.

Lähettänyt muir muir, 10. heinäkuuta 2019 20:04



American Robin

Lähettänyt onekoolkid0 melkein 2 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

Anas platyrhynchos -- They're encountered all over the world in both parks and 'the wild' (Common), ducks in general are fairly commonly portrayed in media and stories for a number of reasons (Charismatic), the male's green heads are easily noticeable and identifiable and the species in general is relatively large and active during the day over a range of habitats (Conspicuous), and it's not too hard to find some moving slowly along a waterway even with a heavy human presence (Camera-friendly).

A through-provoking write-up, @muir, that I'll probably have in mind for the rest of the day. Here in South Korea, our most-observed species are (1) frog (2) frog (3) salamander (4) frog (5) gull (6) frog (7) spider (8) ladybug (9) frog (10) toad. An interesting mix that I think can be attributed to the interests of our power users, though the spider and ladybug both have striking coloration and are present in urban habitats, making them easy to encounter for most people.

Lähettänyt whaichi melkein 2 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

Thanks. Anas (including mallards but also 38 other species) and Turdus (the genus that American robins belong to) are good guesses, but are not correct. Anas is actually the second most observed genus on iNat with 91,600+ verifiable observations, 25k observers). The thrush genus (Turdus) has 66,800+ verifiable observations of 75 species from 20k+ observers.

@whaichi good point about how power users can affect how frequently certain groups are observed, especially in smaller geographies. I think the Rana genus might be the most observed in South Korea, with three species each with multiple hundreds of observations. I think South Korea's most observed insect genus on iNat is Harmonia, driven almost entirely by Asian lady beetle observations.

Lähettänyt muir melkein 2 vuotta sitten (Lippu)


Lähettänyt tchakamaura melkein 2 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

My guess is Great Herons, with "conspicuous" being the reason I think this.

Great write-up Matt!

Lähettänyt judygva melkein 2 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

I'm trying my best to document every mallard I see to get it at that number 1 slot. ;)

Great journal post, Matt!

Lähettänyt sambiology melkein 2 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

Is the Mallard 🦆 like your favorite bird?

Lähettänyt onekoolkid0 melkein 2 vuotta sitten (Lippu)

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