Evidence possibly transported unaturally far from its source

Hi all,

I’ve found similar questions in this forum but struggled to get an answer to my particular issue, which is this observation: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/185614107
This specimen was found alive in my car, and uploaded in the exact location and date where found. Naturally it is not known to occur in this location, but it is a regular species in one area I’ve been all day and it might have entered in my car and only noticed after.

I’ve been asked to delete the observation, so it don’t mislead people about the real known distribution of this species.

In my opinion this might be a proof that organisms can be found away from the original location due to human intervention, totally involuntary in this case.

What are your opinions?


To start with, I’d say definitely don’t delete the observation. As to the location, it’s a difficult one. If you are sure it entered your car at a given point (perhaps this was the only place where the car door/window was open and so it could have entered), then you could enter that as the location, with a generous radius of accuracy and a note explaining the situation, just as you have here. If you can’t be sure, then I’d say you did the right thing, adding the location where you saw it and explaining how you thought it might have arrived there.
Personally I agree, it is an interesting example of how organisms can be moved from one place to another by human intervention and I would hope that any future researcher studying the distribution of the species and seeing an anomalous record outside the expected area would at least study it further and hopefully thus find your note.
That said, it’s a grey area that could well happen to any of us, so I too would be interested in the opinion of others.


I asked something similar here

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your proceedure is correct and there is no need to delete your observation. Your marked the correct location you found that organism in and that ist fine.

While it might be a very fair assumption that this specimen was transfered, it is still just that - an assumption. How to deal with it is actually not your desicion, but the desicion of anybody wanting to use the data. In science you do not just make up data that suits your world view best (e.g. adjust locations), but you might want to try to explain outliers… your additional information helps with this explanation.
I would therefore advice to explain your thoughts on how the specimen got to where you observed it on the observation itself as well. Anybody can then decide how to use this information.

In the end it is not a much different case then observations of organisms transfered to other countries or even continents with produce and found in supermarkets. It is still valueable to mark the location to where it was indeed observed and write the rest of the assumed story in the notes.


Yes, please don’t delete - records like this can be valuable. How to treat these can be a gray area. Since this wasn’t transported intentionally, it’s fine to mark the location as where you observed it in your car as wild. If you are pretty certain of the original location where the organism came from (like you made a stop in only one location where it is found), I could also see marking it at that location with a comment about the situation. But I would just leave it as you have it myself!


You did the right thing. Observations on iNaturalist aren’t meant to represent only an organism’s historically defined range but rather where they are actually occurring. These observations can be really important for instance in detecting introduced or invasive species. I have seen several legitimate observations of buprestid beetles far from their home ranges. Do they represent established populations or merely incidental / accidental arrivals? We don’t know, but it gives us some information to start with. In invasion biology studies it is understood that a large number of organisms end up in places outside their home ranges (usually though not always through anthropogenic means). Observations representing these genuine occurring transportations can be valuable in helping us understand how often and by what means these things occur.


I agree with:


I’ve added the observation to a project that keeps track of observations like these. :)


What’s the project?



I had a species of treefrog show up at my house that is very much not from here.


The best I can figure is that it hitched a ride on my neighbors’ car when they headed home from a recent vacation. This frog hung around my back patio all summer long, and I never saw it after that year.

Definite value to documenting hitchhikers doing hitchhiking.


I think this kind of observation is incredibly valuable, personally. It’s demonstrating the accidental transport of an organism, which is exactly how things spread around, and is how exotic species begin to invade. Regardless of whether the one you saw would have gone on to breed and persist in that location, it’s evidence of how it can arrive there, and I guarantee if it stowed away in your car the same thing as happened in many other cases that never got documented.

I’m constantly having this argument with people in regards to escaped domestic or exotic animals as well, but I usually get outvoted in the DQA…


Knowing when and where invasive species have popped up is very valuable (Not calling yours invasive). Like tracking things like brown marmorated stink bug. Knowing where and how they have been accidently transported to, can end up saving many millions of control work.


I have a similar conundrum and also wasn’t sure if I should delete it. I found a large freshwater muscle shell in my semi permanent creek.I did enough research to conclude it shouldn’t have been there but… It transpired my son had 25 years previously collected a dozen on a school camp and unbeknownst to me released them in a permanent deep and muddy section on our creek. I was thinking I should delete the entry but then I discovered very tiny shells further down the creek in sediment washed up after winter flooding.How long they had been there, if they are still present I have no idea. They were I supposed released rather than cultivated, much like rescued and rehabilitated wildlife has been in the past.


I agree. Science is the observation and accurate recording of all phenomena, for minds to evaluate and make sense of over time. Exclusion of any data from the pool limits possible interpretations …producing false conclusions.

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A great example of the value of all observations! The discussion of your odd find elicited more data, from which more can be learned!

IMHO it doesn’t matter how a species got there - whether by bird, on an animal, by car/train/plane or picked up by tornado and dropped hundreds of km away - it’s important to record where species are getting to and how often.
It’s up to researchers whether they want to include or exclude the observation for their purposes. There will be researchers specifically focussed on how organisms are finding their way to new places for which such observations are vital.
For those living in an area it’s also a fascinating part of the area’s history.

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It’s evidence of range expansion using human as a vector. It’s important data. Lots of things spread way faster and more effectively on cars, caravans, in bales of hay, on dirty machinery, than they would naturally, and we need to know it.

Recently we had an accidental possum reintroduction (well, one individual) 400km N of their current range, but where they used to live 200 years ago, before the European invasion. Fascinating and important.


The actual mode of transport doesn’t matter, but, for the purposes of iNat, human intention does - if an organism was transported intentionally by humans, then it wouldn’t be Wild, but captive (though if the organism then escaped and was where it wanted to be, it would be Wild). iNat’s guidelines are here:https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#captive

Even captive observations are fine on iNat, they will just be Casual grade, but still accessible to anyone who wants to download them. There’s no need to delete any observations, regardless of whether they end up Casual or not.


Thank you all so much for the replies.
I will leave the observation as it is, add a note explaining the situation, and leave a link to this thread for future reference.