If I identify a rare specimen from someone else's photo, should I contact a museum about it?

I was just reading A Revision of the New World Bistonini (Lepidoptera Geometridae) by
Fredrick H. Rindge, 1975. Yes, I know it is forty-five years old book, but it is the only source that I have found so far that accurately describes in detail the differences between Biston betularia congataria and the rarer Biston betularia contrasta. Link: http://digitallibrary.amnh.org/handle/2246/616

After reading pages 15-19, I was going back through the observations of Biston betularia in North America to see if any of them fit the description of the contrasta subspecies from page 19:

Similar to cognataria, differing mainly as follows: scaling on head, thorax, and abdomen whiter; upper and under surfaces of wings white, with grayish brown, brown and black scales; maculation tending to be reduced.


The moths of this population are poorly represented in collections. Specimens are usually scarce in Utah.

Contrasta is also found in Northeastern parts of Nevada from the map on page 18:

I did find one observation in Northeastern Nevada, https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/3717789, by @jimjohnson that did fit the morphological description of Biston betuaria contrasta:

So, should I contact an expert about this? Or a museum to see if they want to add the picture to their collection?


I don’t think it would hurt, and it would be good to confirm the ID with someone if noone else on iNat can, but most museums would only be interested in a physical specimen, not just an image. Having said that, in an increasingly digitised age, you never know!


Do you know any experts on Peppered Moths that use iNaturalist? I would gladly appreciate any list.

The best way to find top identifiers is to search for that taxon in the explore page (e.g. for peppered moths). Of course, number of identifications does not always equate to expertise, but it’s a good starting point to figure out who may be an expert. Apart from yourself (the top identifier), there are a few others with over 150 identifications of this species

Keep in mind though, in the invertebrate world, it’s rare for researchers to be an expert in individual species; instead, they’ll be experts in a tribe, family etc. So doing a search for tribe Bistonini or subfamily Ennominae (and specifically in the US/Europe) may be the best way to go.


Just don’t forget there are licensing and intellectual property aspects to a commercial enterprise (like a museum) using these images. Even if the photos are licensed without any restrictions on usage, it would be courteous to let the user that uploaded it know what you (or the museum) would want to do with their images. In some cases, it may be better to encourage the user that uploaded the image to contact other parties that might be interested.


In many parts of the world museums are educational and research institutes, funded by governments. Here in the UK major natural history museums have free entry. If a museum charges, then it tends to become a visitor/tourist attraction which is not the primary purpose of museums. iNaturalist is certainly a place where a museum researcher would check, so it’s an appropriate place for these images.

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Hello @bernardpicton, welcome to the Forum :)

I’m in contact with my local herbarium curator and have sent him some of my observations that extend documented range of some species. I keep intending to submit specimens, but haven’t put together an herbarium-grade kit, yet.

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