יומן של Maryland Biodiversity Project

דצמבר 02, 2020

Some reasons Patent Leather Beetles are awesome

The Patent Leather Beetle (Odontotaenius disjunctus), or Bess Beetle, or Horned Passalus Beetle on iNaturalist - it is known by many names - is a large, lovely, and distinctive beetle that is common in rotting wood.

Here are just some of the reasons they are awesome:

  • They are big, beautiful, common, and harmless. As the father of two daughters who have repeatedly found and handled them, I can attest to their harmless good nature. Kid-tested and father-approved!
  • They live in family groups and protect their families from intruders. This is pretty rare in insects. The parents and even older siblings stick together and tend to the young. Remember to put them back where you found them!
  • They talk! I believe this species still has the distinction of the only beetle with an audio file on the MBP site (link below)! The species is known to create at least 14 distinct sounds, presumed to have different meanings such as warning signals. With what we've learned about other living things' languages in recent years, I recommend opening our minds to the distinct possibility that everything is more complex and awesome than most people assume.
  • Like many beetles, Patent Leather Beetles are part of the world's recycling crew, the decomposers. Like earthworms, they are part of what keeps healthy life cycles turning in our forests.
  • The eat poop. Wait, it's cool. They're an amazing example of the interplay between species and their symbiont microorganisms. Without the microorganisms to digest tough plant fibers, this (and many other species) can't survive. They will literally die of starvation if not allowed to first eat the microorganisms left, intentionally and consistently, by their parents. Look no further for awesome examples of symbiosis and the critical importance of gut biomes. Most animals, very much including us, are also habitat and hosts to welcome guests needed for survival.

It's all connected, man...

We still need two county records for this species: Garrett and Wicomico Counties.

Photo by Scott Housten in Dorchester Co., Maryland. More at MBP, including audio of one protesting our affections.


פורסם ב דצמבר 02, 2020 02:10 אחה"צ על־ידי billhubick billhubick | 4 comments | הוספת תגובה

נובמבר 30, 2020

Maryland's cetaceans

Today's photo is a Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) in Maryland waters in August 2009. The Fin Whale is second only to the Blue Whale as the largest creature that has ever lived. Think of what wonders persist in the world - creatures larger than any dinosaur in our oceans!

Maryland waters are traversed by at least 23 species of cetaceans (Order Cetacea) - the whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Our species list includes Blue Whale, Sperm Whale, Orca and others. It may be possible to add other species to our list as we mine data sets and publications. Here's the MBP checklist: https://www.marylandbiodiversity.com/viewChecklist.php?order=Cetacea

Please support ocean conservation in addition to our local efforts. I try to balance my conservation/environmental donations with a mix of local and global/international. Healthy oceans are critical to our long-term survival on this planet. We

Have a great week!


Photo by Bill Hubick. More at Maryland Biodiversity Project:

פורסם ב נובמבר 30, 2020 01:52 אחה"צ על־ידי billhubick billhubick | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

נובמבר 25, 2020

What is a fish? Part 2 - On lampreys and hagfish

Enjoy part 2 of Tom Feild's excellent summary of the amazing evolutionary history of what we call "fish" (and a bit on "birds")!

Yesterday's post discussed the classification of the jawed vertebrates, including sharks and rays (Chondrichthyes) and bony fish (Actinopterygii). There are two much smaller, but equally interesting classes of fish found in Maryland: the eel-like hagfish (Myxini) and lampreys (Cephalaspidomorphi or Hyperoartia).

Hagfish and Lampreys are from lineages even more ancient than the sharks. These branches appeared prior to the evolution of jaws. Instead of jaws, lampreys have concentric circles of bizarre rasp-like teeth that can be used to latch onto fish and to abrade the flesh. They also feed on carrion and filter-feed. Hagfish have similar feeding habits, but they have teeth arranged in two rows. To increase the strength of their jawless bite they sometimes tie themselves in an overhand knot as they feed and pull their head through the loop this forms, squeezing the head as it goes through to push the teeth together and assist in taking a bite from their prey.

The Sea Lamprey is pelagic, but other species can sometimes be seen in shallow coastal plain streams in the spring. In our area hagfish are generally seen only seen at sea, where they are sometimes seen by fishermen when they prey on fish that have been caught on lines or in nets.

Hagfish lack true vertebrae, but it is believed that they evolved from ancestors that had them, rather than branching off the evolutionary tree prior to their evolution. So, hagfish have no vertebrae, but are considered vertebrates! Strange, but in accordance with the goal of defining taxa consistent with evolutionary relationships.

A final note on the tetrapods: mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. The goal of ensuring these taxa are consistent with evolutionary relationships was complicated by the discovery that birds descended from therapod dinosaurs. It is currently believed that the closest living relatives of the birds are the crocodilians. Birds are more closely related to alligators than alligators are to lizards, snakes, or turtles. To be consistent, birds should be placed within the class Reptilia. Some authorities have taken this step (See ‘Reptile’ in Wikipedia), but traditions are hard to change!


Thanks, Tom! This was fantastic. - Bill

Least Brook Lamprey (Lampetra aepyptera) photo courtesy of Ben Springer. More at Maryland Biodiversity Project: https://www.marylandbiodiversity.com/view/160

פורסם ב נובמבר 25, 2020 02:06 אחה"צ על־ידי billhubick billhubick | 0 comments | הוספת תגובה

What is a fish?

I am delighted to share the first of two guest posts from our dear friend Tom Feild. Read on today to learn why we are more closely related to trout than trout are to sharks!

What is a fish?

Many of us remember learning five classes of vertebrates: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. While this traditional arrangement is generally still followed for the latter four groups, what are typically called fish have now been divided into at least four distinct classes. This is due to the richness and diversity of the world’s fish fauna, with nearly 34,000 living species, more than half of all vertebrates. This diversity is driven by the long history of vertebrate evolution.

When Linnaeus first defined the classes of vertebrates, relationships were based on structure and behavior, which can be subjective. The theory of evolution provided a more objective framework, and modern taxonomy strives to define taxa (e.g., species, genus, family, etc.) according to their evolutionary relationships. Each taxon should be defined to include all descendants from a common ancestor. Thus, every member of a taxon should be more closely related to every other member of that taxon than they are to any member of a different taxon.

One of the major developments in vertebrate evolution was the development of non-cartilaginous bones. Sharks and Rays have cartilaginous skeletons; this branch of the vertebrate tree first appeared prior to the evolution of bones. The other major group of fish, called bony fish, appeared after the evolution of bones. Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, collectively called tetrapods, also have bones. This shows that the sharks diverged from the other “fish” before the tetrapods diverged from the bony fish. We are more closely related to trout than trout are to sharks! If we maintained the class Pisces as defined by Linnaeus to include sharks and bony fish, this taxon should also include mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles – a fishy arrangement indeed!

Instead sharks and rays are placed in class Chondrichthyes and bony fish in class Actinopterygii. For this reason, MBP places the sharks and rays on a separate page from the bony fish. The taxon Gnathostomata is defined to include all jawed vertebrates, so sharks and rays, bony fish and tetrapods are all within Gnathostoma.


Join us tomorrow for Part 2 of this guest post, where things get even stranger!

  • Bill

פורסם ב נובמבר 25, 2020 02:04 אחה"צ על־ידי billhubick billhubick | 2 comments | הוספת תגובה

אוקטובר 16, 2020

Sharing obscured locations with MBP

This is the short version. Long version with much more info on why and our assurances on careful use of this data is here: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/maryland-biodiversity-project/journal/37899-sharing-obscured-locations-with-mbp

Option #1

1) Go to the "MBP Sensitive" project at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/mbp-sensitive.
2) Select "Your Membership".
3) Under Settings, there's the item "Do you want to make your private/obscured observation coordinates visible to the project curators?" Click "Yes, no matter who adds the observation to the project."
4) Then add any obscured observations to this project

Option #2 (** This option has the advantage of doing it once and then no need to remember to add to "MBP Sensitive" in the future.)

1) Follow Bill from MBP - go to https://www.inaturalist.org/people/billhubick and click "follow billhubick" next to my name.
2) Go to Account Settings via the menu in the top-right of any page.
3) On the far right, there's a heading called "Your Relationships". Under it, click "Manage your relationships". Search for "billhubick" and click enter. Then by my name select the box for "Trust with hidden coordinates".

Then anytime anyone adds something there, we can see the coordinates and map to the right county/quad (and have for research/conservation/posterity).

פורסם ב אוקטובר 16, 2020 12:40 אחה"צ על־ידי billhubick billhubick | 3 comments | הוספת תגובה

יוני 30, 2020

Sharing obscured locations with MBP


Please consider adding Maryland observations with obscured locations to the project "MBP Sensitive" - https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/mbp-sensitive. Maryland Biodiversity Project (MBP) is a biodiversity-focused non-profit that handles sensitive data with great care. We archive biodiversity data for posterity and share with appropriate stakeholders in the science and conservation community. The MBP web site only shows record details at the USGS quad level by default and only to county level for vulnerable species.

To share your coordinates, please complete the following easy steps: Go to the "MBP Sensitive" project and then "Your Membership". Under Settings, there's the item "Do you want to make your private/obscured observation coordinates visible to the project curators?" Please click "Yes, no matter who adds the observation to the project." Then anytime anyone adds something there, we can see the coordinates and map to the right county/quad (and have for research/conservation/posterity).


iNaturalist supports at least two forms of geoprivacy. Record-level geoprivacy allows individuals to mark records as “obscured” or “private”. To protect sensitive species, iNaturalist also marks all records of certain taxa (i.e., endangered, S-ranked, vulnerable) with “obscured” geoprivacy via a “taxon_geoprivacy” field.

We have to go a bit technical for this paragraph. When records are obscured - whether at the record level or the taxon level - our MBP data ingest tool cannot see the precise locations. Based on our testing, the “obscured” coordinates can place the location outside of the actual quad, county, or even state. The state can be confirmed elsewhere, so our current approach is to ingest the record and media and map them at the state-level only with county and quad not populated.

So what can we do?

  • First, if/when comfortable with all details, including species / site sensitivity, you can remove the record-level geoprivacy and add records as “open”. This option is not available for taxon-level geoprivacy.
  • Add records to the MBP Sensitive project and grant curators permission to see the coordinates -

Why two projects?

It came down to deciding whether we wanted to manually add every record or just have to add the sensitive records. Our main project is a collection project and automatically collects all MD records in iNaturalist (with some other basic rules). Unfortunately, the trade-off is that curators/managers of that project cannot see obscured coordinates. MBP Sensitive is a “traditional” project, which does allow observers to share coordinates with our curators. As noted above, MBP will archive any obscured coordinates for posterity and share with appropriate stakeholders in the science and conservation community. Our web site only shows record details at the USGS quad level by default and only to county level for vulnerable species.

פורסם ב יוני 30, 2020 02:35 אחה"צ על־ידי billhubick billhubick | 4 comments | הוספת תגובה

אפריל 01, 2020

MBP is adding support for iNaturalist

Good news! We wanted to let you know that Maryland Biodiversity Project (a 501(c)3 non-profit cataloging Maryland's biodiversity) is adding support for sharing observations via iNaturalist! Maryland records added to iNaturalist are now automatically added to this MBP iNaturalist project and queued for addition to the MBP database. Joining our project here is encouraged but not required as all Maryland records are automatically aggregated. We will continue supporting Flickr-based submissions indefinitely, so changing over is encouraged but not required. Resubmitting photos on iNaturalist is also not required. Thank you for your continued support! Let us know if you have any questions!

פורסם ב אפריל 01, 2020 12:48 אחה"צ על־ידי billhubick billhubick | 6 comments | הוספת תגובה