Scientific publication of georeferenced molecular data as an adequate guide to delimit the range of Korean Hynobius salamanders through citizen science

Amaël Borzée, Hae Jun Baek, Chang Hoon Lee, Dong Yoon Kim, Jae-Young Song, Jae-Hwa Suh, Yikweon Jang, Mi-Sook Min


Despite the importance of clearly assessing the distribution boundaries of species, it is not possible for scientists to acquire genetic information and conduct molecular analysis for all populations. Consequently, citizen science is of increasing importance for large scale data collection. In this study, we described the range boundaries of the four Hynobius species occurring in Korea based on genetic identification and refined their distribution through citizen science data. The genetic identification of individuals was extracted from the literature, while the citizen science data were extracted from iNaturalist through GBIF. Distribution boundary lines were drawn from the genetic data and consistency with citizen science datapoints was assessed through a comparative analysis with the points found beyond the established boundary lines. Depending on the species, 1.43 to 25.00% of the observations extracted from the citizen science data were located beyond the boundaries suggested by the molecular analyses, with average distances ranging from 3.51 ± 2.97 to 51.47 ± 30.87 km (mean ± SD). We considered these variations negligible in the view of the whole distribution of these species. In general, the distributions extracted from iNaturalist were accurate and adequately representative of the distribution of the species, with the exception of the recently split H. quelpaertensis. Additionally, citizen science data highlighted the absence of gaps in the distribution of these species. In conclusion, given the good accuracy of citizen science data, we recommend the publication of molecular based data so that citizen science platforms could help define accurately the range of species for which data is missing or outdated.

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