Observation of the Week 2017-07-21

This Alloniscus mirabilis isopod, seen in California by alex_bairstow, is our Observation of the Week!

While many high school students are working summer jobs, volunteering, and just having fun, Alex Bairstow is finding and documenting new species for iNaturalist!

A resident of Southern California, Alex describes himself as a “nature enthusiast,” and is interested in birds, fish, mollusks, and more. Right now he’s gearing up for his senior year of high school in the fall and he says that after he graduates, “ideally, I'd like to go into a career in marine biology.”

Alex is already on the right path, as he posted iNaturalist’s first two observations of Alloniscus mirabilis, an isopod native to California (here’s the second observation). According to iNat Co-director and isopod enthusiast Scott Loarie (@loarie), these are the first documented photos of this species he’s been able to find on the web. “This is a pretty awesome contribution to iNat,” he says.

Alex discovered these isopods while on a trip to Cabrillo National Monument, where he took some of his relatives who were visiting from Sweden. “[Cabrillo National Monument] has some pretty great tide pools, but it was high tide when we arrived, so I decided to check the cliff faces bordering the upper intertidal zone instead. That's when I came across a few interesting woodlice, which thanks to Scott Loarie and Jonathan Wright, I learned were Alloniscus mirablis,” he tells me.

According to Jonathan Wright, it was interesting that Alex found the creatures in crevices on a cliffside (see above); these isopods are usually found on the sand, under driftwood and other cover. According to UC-Santa Barbara Marine Science Institute researchers David Hubbard and Jennifer Dugan, sand-dwelling isopods in Southern California, including members of Alloniscus, are declining in population and range (see article here). Loarie muses that perhaps the isopods are moving into the cliff faces due to lack of suitable beach habitat; obviously more studies would have to be done, but it’s an intriguing possibility. That a teenage nature enthusiast would find these creatures in an unlikely habitat, then post the first photos of the species online, illustrates the potential of citizen science.

“Since joining iNaturalist about a year ago, the way I view nature has changed drastically,” says Alex. “Instead of focusing on just one group of organisms (i.e. birds), iNaturalist has encouraged me to see the bigger picture and enjoy all that nature has to offer.”

- by Tony Iwane


- Check out some of the other faved Isopod observations on iNat!

- We’re used to seeing tiny isopods, but of course there are enormous ones at the bottom of the ocean.

Publicado por hannahsun99 hannahsun99, 11 de agosto de 2020

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