Can I upload observations of insects in amber?

Wasn’t sure if I could upload images of prehistoric insects.


you can, but if they are sufficiently prehistoric, they should be marked “recent evidence of organism = No” in the Data Quality Assessment. It’s not the purpose of iNat, but a few snuck in ain’t gonna break the system!

[edit] I should add, that if you need to add a taxon to iNat in order to ID it, then perhaps it’s getting too far into the out of bounds area…


This would definitely be a use case for a fossil organism platform counterpart to iNaturalist.


In fact not, there’re many amber stuff that is ided, but mostly without marking as too old, but tagging should help.


I’ve been uploading images of insects from my collection of Baltic amber since the end of 2017 ( I wanted to make my collection available to the scientific community and at the time I had two choices: MyFossil ( and iNaturalist. Both are taxon based, a key requirement for me, but MyFossil had a limited life as it was only funded until September 2019 … so I chose iNat for longevity. To show that these uploads are not extant I include an observation field of ‘fossil = yes’.
So far my collection represents < 8% of my total iNat uploads and << 0.01 % of the total iNat insect uploads - so adding a few more inclusions from Baltic amber should not break the bank! It also has the benefit of making your insect inclusions visible to ‘the experts’ (I know that a few palaeoentomologists view iNat) and you never know may potentially contribute to the identification of new fossil insect species.


Yes, you could upload such, but it would rightly be classified as a Casual observation according to iNat’s FAQ:

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

  • the community agrees the date doesn’t look accurate
  • the community agrees the location doesn’t look accurate
  • 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

All of the amber inclusion observations need to be marked as “not recent”, which means the organism was not alive within 100 years of the present.

Therefore, in the Data Quality Assessment section, which is low on each observation webpage on the left, you need to put thumbs down next to “Recent evidence of an organism”.

@danebury216. It is nice that you did this: “To show that these uploads are not extant I include an observation field of ‘fossil = yes’.” However, that is not sufficient. You also need to mark them all as not recent in the Data Quality Assessment.


I’ve been following you for some time based on the amber insects. When I was a young person I wanted to be a paleontologist - insects in amber fill both roles!


Thanks Susan. Is there any way to automate this? The are all in the same project so that could help.

I personally don’t know of any way to automate this, but if you have to do them individually, it only requires one click, and then another click to get to the next one.

I’m definitely not suggesting that they shouldn’t be uploaded, I personally would rather see them included. My comment was more that if you upload one and the taxon for it is not in iNat, you shouldn’t expect the taxon to be added to iNat to accommodate the observations identification. In terms of a physical collection, they are “back room stuff”, and we shouldn’t be putting resources/effort to extending such back rooms just to accommodate them.

There is a similar argument to be made around “processed” organisms… ie pumpkin soup, cedar shingles, cheese… personally I think it’s fascinating to see observations of the organism through all stages and behaviours in it’s life, as well as how we use it and interface with it in ours. If I consider the observation of the oak tree, and the observation of the large support beam in the roof of an old church, and connect the dots, then it strengthens the message of how important our biodiversity is to us, both historically and for the future discoveries that will help mankind that we will lose if taxa become extinct before the discoveries are made. And for me, the best way to reach the hearts and minds of those that are selfish and only think about what’s in it for THEM (the climate deniers etc), is to put the spotlight on what THEY are losing, rather than what nature is losing… but I think that is projecting a little too far beyond the iNat mission!

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if they are sequential observations, but I’m not sure how that would be achievable with a single click to get to next observation if the set is a project.

I would ctrl-click the observations in the project view to open in new tabs, and then set the DQA and close each tab when it’s done… if your filter excludes casual observations, then it could be done in batches and refresh the search results after each batch to filter out the ones you have done before ctrl-clicking to open the next batch

Thanks @kiwifergus - I’ll give it a go, something to keep me busy! BTW I have no intention of requesting the inclusion of extinct taxa as I keep this information in an offline database.
Thanks @susanhewitt for your help and comments - they are very helpful and I will use them to inform an article that I am writing that describes the management of my collection using iNat.

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I think using the Identify page might be the fastest method.


good call… allows next/prev scrolling through them. You could exclude the casuals and then at the end of each page just refresh, similar to how the reviewed filtering works!

Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll give it a go.

To be clear, @danebury216 's amber observations are rarely identified below Family level, although some of them probably could be. See this wonderful specimen here - Non-biting Midges (Chironomidae) observed by danebury216 ·

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