Fossils and 'recent evidence of organism' in 'research grade qualification'

There is a small inner discrepancy in how iNaturalist treats fossils, which can be overcome by deleting one word from a menu option.
iNaturalist accept extinct taxa as community names and observations of fossils, which may reach research grade, e.g.
At the same time, the ‘research grade qualification’ at each observation has a field ‘recent evidence of organism’, where voting ‘no’ makes an observation casual.
Interpretation if a fossil is a recent evidence of organism (as photographed nowadays) or not (and is a past evidence) is unequivocal. Therefore many users vote ‘no’ for any fossil, thus placing making observatoin casual, e.g.

that is they will never reach research grade even if happen to be identified and confirmed.
At the same time, for instance, I cannot vote ‘yes’ in that field, since I am not sure if a fossil can be
considered as a recent evidence.

This minor contradiction or ambiguity of the current iNaturalist wording, placing many observations to the grey zone, can be overcome if to remove the word 'recent" from that line of the ‘research grade qualification’, making it simply ‘Evidence of an organism is present’.

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There is no bug here, the system is working as intended: iNaturalist’s focus is not on fossils (whether people agree or disagree with that ethos is another argument)

this DQA category already exists, one above the recent evidence category


Oh, sorry, my fault. I just could not imagine it was there…
Anyway, there is no bug but an inner contradiction: iNaturalist qualifies fossils as unfit for research grade in DQA and accepts fossil taxa and allows fossil observations to become research grade (if nobody votes against in DQA) on the other hand. I’m afraid there would better be one way of treatment (and removal ‘recent evidence of organisum’ from DQA would be a simple solution)

This doesn’t really seem like a contradiction to me: you can have fossil observations but they must be casual. The system can’t know whether an observation is a fossil or not (there are recent extinct species), so they must be manually marked as such. It’s like having cultivated plants or pets: generally discouraged but still allowed as casual.


I do understand a little bit of the reason for confusion, because some taxa (ie those extinct for >120 years or so) will/should always be downvoted for recent evidence, but they are still available as taxon choices. It would be easy enough to remove any long extinct taxa from iNat’s taxonomy/choices.

That said I think the reason these taxa are included is because iNat’s primary purpose is to connect people to nature. Sometimes people will be encountering fossils (or other taxa without recent evidence), and they’ll probably be quite excited about it in some cases and want to post an observation. iNat currently allows this, but it isn’t encouraged. So in my interpretation, the current system is a compromise that allows these types of observations, even though they aren’t the main focus of iNat, because they do help promote connection to nature. But iNat does not allow these observations to be RG (at least when the DQA is used appropriately), to discourage the posting of fossils and similar to some extent.

I wonder if it might be appropriate to consider having the system give an automatic downvote to “Recent Evidence of Organism” for long extinct taxa in the same way as it does for cultivated organisms in some situations? This probably wouldn’t be hard to do, and could help reduce identifiers dealing with these observations/some confusion. That said, there are so few of these types of observations, that it might not be worth implementing.


Fossil would be global, whereas Not Wild is location dependent.

Yep, so I think a global setting for DQA voting for a given taxon would be even easier - set it and forget it (unless the species is dextincted).


I learned in English Grammar that word order matters. I’m sure some of us remember that set of sentences:
“Only he broke his leg yesterday.”
“He only broke his leg yesterday.”
“He broke only his leg yesterday.”
“He broke his only leg yesterday.”
“He broke his leg only yesterday.”
“He broke his leg yesterday only.”

The point being that the meaning can change completely based on where the word “only” appears relative to the other words.

So, in regard to that DQA category:
If I found a Megalodon tooth last week, it is indeed “recent evidence of an organism.” However, it is not “evidence of a recent organism.”
Other threads have discussed for instance antique or heirloom photos which may have been taken long ago, and how these would not be “recent evidence of an organism.” To equate that situation with the finding of a fossil seems rather muddleheaded to me.


Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out

It’s true. That haunted me, so I tried out all the variations. Going off at a language tangent, sorry

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