Do you iNat? I do: 4,828 observations of 1,163 Rio Grande Valley species uploaded to an international database where scientific information is made available and useful!
For those who love statistics, check out this link:
I got an e-mail from iNat inviting me to my own personal year in review. I briefly clicked the link and had the impression I could delve into my observations and make my own statistical information. I thought it was a great idea, but it seemed awfully time consuming and the stats class in grad school was not my strong suit so I closed out, thinking it could be a project for another day.
Later, another iNaturalist e-mail invited me to join a Zoom opportunity about “Deep Dive.” I thought it might help me build my own statistical report. I’m glad I joined the training. Turns out, iNat had populated my personal statistics; I didn’t have to do a thing.
The training continues to be available at this link, https://www.inaturalist.org/stats/2023 or when you log onto your personal site. The training also explains what the reports show and how the information can be useful.
If you iNat, you have a personal statistical report, too. Check it out.
To view the training session, open your site and click on the “Watch Now” or the Deep Dive block. If you can’t wait, go straight to the green bar: “See Your Personal Year In Review.” After you’ve looked at your stats, go back and watch the info training – it’s only an hour.
Once on your personal stats, scroll down to a most colorful sunburst.
Mine reflects that 82.21 percent of my uploaded observations were insects. I’m not surprised. About seven months of the year, I check my moth sheet black light set up, which is how I find an amazing number and variety of insects. During those months in 2023, I added 3,960 insect observations to iNaturalist.
Newly added species graph reflects species that were added for the first time. Below the graph, under Broader Impacts, GBIF is the Global Biodiversity Information facility, an international network and data infrastructure funded by the world’s governments and aimed at providing anyone, anywhere, open access to data about all types of life on Earth. – www.gbif.org. It is one of many agencies and organizations that use information from iNaturalist.
As you explore your sunburst, don’t be thrown off by unfamiliar categories, like Hexapods because your bff Google can quickly help. Also, as you move your cursor on a sunburst color toward the outer edge, things become clearer.
I asked Google, “What are Hexapods?” and found “In biology, they are the true, or six-legged, insects; insects other than myriapods and arachnids.”
Diptera (true flies)
Hemiptera (true bugs)
Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps)
In the course of looking for answers, I came across an Ohio State University blog post with some fascinating hexapod facts: “Hexapods have a rich evolutionary history dating back as far as 412 million years ago. Being one of the first insect groups to inhabit terrestrial habitats, hexapods served as a very important role in selecting land-based plant life.” Hexapods are one of the largest and most diverse groups of animals on the planet with more than 750,000 species. “Hexapods ensure the success of many ecosystems.”
Arachnids aren’t just spiders.
Arachnida (/əˈræknɪdə/) is a class of joint-legged arthropods, in the subphylum Chelicerata. Adult arachnids have eight legs attached to the cephalothorax – you can learn as much as you can absorb when you ask Google for information.
Arachnida includes, spiders, scorpions, ticks, mites, pseudoscorpions, harvestmen, camel spiders, solpugids (sun spiders), whip spiders and vinegaroons. I had only 84 observations of arachnids during 2023. I'll work on trying to increase that number next year.
I found a beautiful example of a spider one day. I was so proud of the shot, I sent the photo to our chapter spider expert, Joseph Connors -- and found that it was not a spider, it was a harvestman. I'd had to follow the critter as it climbed out of the grass and onto a stack of concrete edgers. Gorgeous, isn't it?
For a refresher from our own spider expert, revisit Joseph's presentation from the Estero Llano Grande State Park's Virtual Spooky Science Festival.
Arthropods – the largest phylum in the animal kingdom, includes forms like lobsters, crabs, spiders, mites, insects, centipedes and millipedes. The distinguishing feature of arthropods is the presence of a jointed skeletal covering composed of chitin – a nonliving exoskeleton, according to Britannica. Arthropods include insects, arachnids and crustaceans.
There are more kinds of beetles in the world than any other type of animal, invertebrate or otherwise, according to San Diego zoo.com. My favorites are the giant water scavenger, although they always make me squeal when they buzz their wings open in pre-flight.
The Australian Museum mentions, "arthropods are invertebrates with jointed legs."
Mini quiz: Is this interestingly named gallinipper, Psorophora ciliata, an arthropod?
Answer: Yes, notice the jointed legs? You may better know it as a mosquito.
Ray-finned Fishes. As the name suggests, characteristics of ray-finned fish have fins that are supported by parallel bony rays, which in life are webbed with thin tissue; the fins themselves contain very little muscle and are primarily moved by muscles within the body, according to the first site that popped up, with information from the University of California Museum of Paleontology. The swim bladder is also a unique feature of most ray-finned fish, enabling them to maintain buoyancy as they move up or down in the water. – Perhaps you’re fascinated to know that. Catfish, perch, trout, koi, goldfish and alligator gar are ray-finned fish. Sometimes fish get beached by the surf, or left on the beach and can be included in a BioBlitz.
The smallest order on my personal sunburst was of Agaricineae, which I also had to look up. It is a sub order of fungi. Fungi can be extremely fun looking.
If you don’t yet iNat, check out how to get started at www.iNaturalist.org. After that, downlead the phone app and go on a First Day Hike at your favorite State Park for the beginning of your own statistical annual report.
Check out First Day Hikes in this link from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department: