Things that need to be done

In case you hadn't noticed, I have had a VERY busy year this year with Honours and several papers in the works, so unfortunately my iNat time has been severely limited. I just haven't had time for the thousands of bulk IDs that I used to do, and I barely even have time to work on my own sightings. Hopefully I'll get some more free time next year, but in the meantime this seems like what my life will mostly be like, alas!

So anyway, instead of doing all those 'bulk IDs' which are mostly just confirming what other people have already suggested, I figured that my time is much better spent sorting out taxonomic problems and systemic misidentifications - things that have gone overlooked and unnoticed because we've all just assumed that the first IDs were correct.

Sometimes it really is the way that it looks - for example, Phyllocharis cyanicornis really is super widespread and very variable, and Pristhesancus plagipennis is also by far the most common species in its genus. Laccotrephes tristis, Tectocoris diophthalmus, Pogonortalis doclea, etc., etc., all these species really are common and widespread.

But this isn't always the case, and sometimes there are just huge problems with identifications. Whether it's because two species are virtually identical, or because nobody has looked at closely-related species, or simply because a species has been misidentified over and over again, sometimes even in the primary literature, photographs and sightings of some species just get misidentified everywhere.

But time and time again, the iNaturalist community has grabbed a hold of these problems and has done a very good job in fixing them! The two that come to mind that I had a hand in are Trichonephila plumipes and T. edulis, and of course the horrible mess of Argiope keyserlingi and A. aetherea. We have lots of identifiers now who are excellent at differentiating the two Trichonephila species, and although the Argiope are much more difficult, the community at least knows that it's not a simple ID. I think that's the key here - not necessarily being able to ID them, but knowing that an ID to species will be difficult, or sometimes impossible.

So what have I been doing about all this? Quite a bit in fact! Recently, I've begun investigating some of my older IDs and just double-checking to make sure that they are what everyone says they are. Because if a species has hundreds and hundreds of IDs and looks pretty much identical to something you've photographed, then surely it's the same species.... right? Admit it, we all do this. And often times it's true - I was so pleased to find out that pretty much everything on the east coast really is Pogonortalis doclea.

Buuuuuut other times of course, we run into problems, where something has been misidentified over and over again, or has been 'overzealously' identified when you realistically need a microscope or something similar. Often times people just don't even realise that there are similar species.

What are to do about all these problems? Never fear, for I have compiled a list of things that need to be done! Some of these problematic species have hundreds and hundreds of identifications, so it's just not feasible for me to go through and fix every one of them myself with my limited time. But the iNat community is FANTASTIC for doing this sort of thing, so I thought I'd post them all here in the hopes that people will start fixing some of these problems if they have the time.

The great part is that usually all it takes is a quick explanation (a link to my explanatory comments/sighting is probably good), and then other users will hopefully go and fix up their own sightings and maybe a couple of others too. I reckon we could do these in no time at all really!

To help you out, I've split them into three categories of increasing effort/difficulty, which are explained below. The most important thing before you start fixing any of these though, is to make sure that you understand why you're making the ID, and that you agree with it. If you're just IDing something because I told you to do it, then we'll wind up right back where we started! So please make sure you read all of the comments on the sightings that I've linked below (yes, especially the goanna (...okay, you don't have to read the earwig paper)), and that you understand and agree with the reasoning. That way you'll also have a much easier time explaining to other people why these need to be changed.

I'm hoping that most users will understand the changes, but if anyone is being stubborn :P please feel free to tag me and I'll add my ID. Here's the list of problems with a concise description of what needs to be done:

Category I - things that just need an ID only with little to no thought

Category II - things that can be identified based on location (sometimes), with little to no other thought

  • Most Australian Deinopis subrufa sightings should be moved back to genus level. The name has become a 'catch-all' for a genus that has not received any recent taxonomic work. IDs should be tentative unless genitalia have been inspected, and even then the group probably needs a revision; see comments here.
  • Backobourkia are for the most part impossible to ID without inspecting the genitalia (patterns are NOT reliable and are very variable), although there are some useful differences in distribution that can be used. Most sightings should be reverted back to genus, except in areas where only a single species is found. See comments here.
  • Almost all Australian sightings of Siphanta acuta should be reverted to genus; see comments here.
  • Australian Tetragonula cannot be identified from most photos, and need to be reverted back to genus. See comments here.

Category III - things that need a little to a lot of scrutiny to distinguish (if you want to help out but aren't confident in IDing these, feel free to just revert them back to a higher taxonomic level and link to my explanatory sighting!) (they're roughly sorted by difficulty)

So if you're keen to help out, please do! Even if you just make a couple of IDs here and there, it all makes a difference and hopefully it won't take too long to go through these. I have a couple more things I need to investigate, so I'll try to add them here when I get to them (I'm looking at you, Melangyna viridiceps). In the meantime though, get to work!

I'll tag some potentially interested parties and people who may be able to make a start on fixing some of this up, but if you guys know anyone else who might be able to help then please please pleeeease tag them in the comments!

@thebeachcomber @reiner @nicklambert @cesdamess @benkurek__ @aidan_08 @bushbandit @grisper1 @twan3253 @beaniana08 @dustaway @zoologistmitch @dabugboi @louisb @suzieandjim @coddiwompler

Posted on 14 June, 2022 08:16 by matthew_connors matthew_connors


yeah nice one, so thorough as usual. I fixed a few hundred Tetragonula a couple of weeks ago; will note here that anything south of say Port Macquarie (and definitely Sydney southwards) should be T. carbonaria, all the other species are Qld/NT/WA only

will get onto to some of these where I can

Posted by thebeachcomber almost 2 years ago

some other notes for when people see these IDs:

Condylostylus is not present in Australia
The genus Cicada is not present in Australia
Amegilla cingulata is not present anywhere south of say Taree-ish

Posted by thebeachcomber almost 2 years ago

Cool, nice work mate. Some of these have bothered me for a while eg Siphanta. Might start on those on a rainy day... Cheers for the tag

Posted by nicklambert almost 2 years ago

I can certainly help

Posted by benkurek__ almost 2 years ago

Happy to help, Thanks! I'm scared about the amount of Caedicia that needs to be fixed up. Gotta find some time.

Posted by aidan_beutel almost 2 years ago

Wonder how Coddington et al's work on Deinopis is proceeding? If indeed it is?
Suggested it was under way in the 2012 paper on Menneus.
From that paper:
"The genus currently contains 46 species (Platnick, 2010). However, our generic revision in
preparation will recognize approximately 30 valid species."
Might mean something for Australian diversity...

Posted by dustaway almost 2 years ago

Any Nicodamus peregrinus for SE QLD NE NSW need to be swapped out for Ambicodamus...a number of species could be candidates according to Harvey 1995. A. southwelli is not present there.

Posted by dustaway almost 2 years ago

Will be some issues with Dimidamus dimidiatus located along Macpherson Range and nearby, and in D'aguilar and Blackall Ranges, being confused with the bicolor morph of Oncodamus decipiens, legs notwithstanding. Red and black partition of dorsal abdomen is close enough to be confusing.

Posted by dustaway almost 2 years ago

Awesome work Matthew!
I'll try not go overboard with my crabweek celebrations so that I can start soon!

Posted by cesdamess almost 2 years ago

Thanks guys! Glad we have a good team :P

@aidan_08 don't worry too much about Caedicia I reckon, because the whole thing is such a mess. If it's obviously something else like Torbia or something then go ahead, but the boundaries of Caedicia are vague.

@dustaway hopefully we get that revision soon! Deinopis seem to be so variable that I wouldn't be surprised if we only had a few species here. But I guess we will not know until that revision is published.

Posted by matthew_connors almost 2 years ago

Very nice Matthew, I am happy to help whenever I get time

Posted by dabugboi almost 2 years ago

Just wanted to say thanks for all the help so far everyone! Still lots to do, but Xylocopa is pretty much fixed, and virtually all Labidura riparia and Varanus similis have at least been moved out of the incorrect taxon, even if some are probably still stuck at genus. If anyone gets a chance there are still lots of super easy things to help with :D

Posted by matthew_connors over 1 year ago

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