Oldest Observation Date

I was initially looking for a good book on identifying Imperial Moths because apparently there are different subspecies here where I live. When searching Google Books, I really could not find what I was looking for. After that, I took a closer inspection of an observation of an Imperial Moth - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/67119215 by @akahl (same picture below).

The most surprising aspect of the observation is that it original occurred in 1983! What are the oldest observations by observation date, and should it be encouraged to upload very old observations? My apologies beforehand if this topic has been created already.

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If you have a collection of old photos you took, it’s definitely ok to post them.

Here’s an interview with Greg Lasley, who uploaded slides from his decades of nature photography .


I searched through iNat using the filters and this is the oldest I found that I believe https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/59166757.

Answer: 1857

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For everyone, the link to see this plus some other old observations is:

I think @brentturcotte rightly excluded the series of pinned beetles preceding the 1857 specimen because their dates appeared contrived.

FWIW, I’ll also note that photos of things not personally observed by the poster in the wild don’t really fit the definition of an iNat observation. That puts a theoretical limit on the oldest “real” iNat observation of sometime in the early 1900s (founding date of iNaturalist minus oldest living iNat observer at the time).

For these, one could try

Still lots of museum specimens to wade through in that search, but something like this 1949 observation could be in the running…


The specimen is from 1857 but not the photo.

@greglasley does have some from the 1960s. Oldest I’ve submitted so far are from 1985. Which isn’t that old, right? Okay it’s kinda old.


Looking through every observation with an earlier date than the blue racer, I think you’re right. Every earlier observation appears to be a preserved specimen, upload of a photograph that is not their own, or a photograph of a photograph (or text description).The title belt for earliest iNat observation made independently by the observer belongs to Bill Schaaf (hoaryherper) then. Very cool!


Old observations are useful in cases of range shifting, i.e. comparing where a taxon presently occurs with where it formerly occurred.


O’k, here is my own oldest photo: June 1975.


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