Are Fossils Acceptable

I just saw an entry which was a photo of a fossil. A fossil is evidence of an organism so is it acceptable? Do you want to go down that rabbithole?


Fossils are marked as “no recent evidence of an organism”, they’re acceptable, just need to be casual.


Totally acceptable! iNat is a very useful tool for exploring the biogeography of paleo-taxa.


Technically anything can be uploaded to Inat(anything non-living will immediately be marked Casual). Even though fossils were living, they do not reflect the current biodiversity of the area(most of the time).
Plus, many fossil taxa do not fit into the current Class-Order-Family system.


No, they are definitely evidence of an organism. One should vote “no” for “Recent evidence of organism” in the Data Quality Assessment.

Its purpose is really for extant taxa. I’d suggest using another platform for fossils. See the many previous conservations about fossils on the forum.


That’s what I wrote?


I find fossils are very helpful for including taxa in the dynamic tree of life that iNaturalist creates. So I find them useful for taxonomic purposes; it helps me visualize where the extinct taxa fit in with extant taxa.

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The only issue I have with fossils is that the location of them may not be obscured and illegal fossil ‘collecting’ is a major issue in some areas.


Nothing is stopping you uploading images of fossils (I’ve uploaded some myself), but as they are not considered “recent evidence of an organism” (by inat’s definition, evidence that an organism existed in a place within the last 100 years), so they will be marked as casual observations.

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Just a note that it will never be possible to accommodate certain extinct taxa in the iNat tree of life. See the reason in the Curator Guide here.


Weird, I misread it. Sorry!


Yes, please add the observation field of Fossil-yes if you see fossil observations without that field. It will help us finding fossil observations.

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The ongoing storage of photos costs iNaturalist money, so even though many of us are interested in fossils, it is much better to share them on a site built for the purpose of sharing fossil finds. That way the people who are interested know where to find them and iNaturalist, which isn’t set up for that purpose, doesn’t have the bother and expense of dealing with them. Sorry to sound so negative, but we need to be practical if we want other improvements.

Staff has said frequently that storage and the cost is not a concern. Not specifically for fossils, but just in general. I understand why people worry about it but they’ve essentially told us not to worry about it.


It doesn’t cost iNat money for most of photos.

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“no recent evidence of an organism"
is different from
“no evidence of recent organism”

The fossil is here right now, so is recent evidence.

I have subfossils, ie dry bones in caves. Estimated 100 to 1000 years old. These have contributed to a rationale for current, and successful re-introductions. If I see those species live, it’ll be a big event, I hope with iNat photos.

What’s an underlying intent or philosophy of iNat? To me it looks like a whole bunch of static observations, not much more than a species list of ‘presence’, with very little ‘absence’ information. But my postings tend to contain multiple photos and comments involving processes, histories and comparisons. For this, subfossils are integral.

Recently I’ve posted perhaps the last individual of a local species that is still making viable seeds, but without a short essay and comparo photos, it’s just another presence photo, like tons of others.

earthknight makes a point-
The only issue I have with fossils is that the location of them may not be obscured and illegal fossil ‘collecting’ is a major issue in some areas.
Fair enough, but that goes for tons of other stuff - in Australia we’ve had whole areas of spiders and snakes and orchids etc wiped out by collectors. Gotta be sure to obscure those.

The ongoing storage of photos costs iNaturalist money,
AUD 0.04 / GB retail.

No, it’s not, evidence should be of an alive organism that died not further than 100 years ago, fossils are not recent evidence and should be marked.
And no, licenced photos are free to store for iNat.


Not recent evidence of it living. Opinions on it aside we should all just listen to what staff wants, though:

Interpretations can vary a lot for this, especially since evidence of it living can be translated to “evidence of it existing” and then that mucks it up a little, for me at least. Because finding a fossil is recent evidence of something existing, but we are meant to go off of the timeframe that it was actually alive, which wasn’t recent. But then that begs the question of how do we gauge what’s recent. I think staff has it down somewhere that it’s 100 years that we consider recent.

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It’s defined in that little pop-up on each observation and on the FAQ page:

Observations will revert to “Casual” if the conditions for Verifiable aren’t met or

  • the community agrees the observation doesn’t present recent (~100 years) evidence of the organism (e.g. fossils, but tracks, scat, and dead leaves are ok)

Recent in the iNat sense is very different from Recent in the geological sense.