Should observations of bioluminescent fungi also include clear images of organisms in natural/artificial light?

I’ve been wondering about this after seeing some observations which display the bioluminescent glow of fungi with only some vague features visible. In Australia we don’t have many bioluminescent fungi, so in some cases it could be reasonable to assume on glow and general shape alone what the species may be. Yet without seeing clear features it sparks doubt for me.
Any thoughts on these kinds of observations? Is it worth asking if the observer can provide images in light?
Link for an example of this type of observation: Ghost Fungus (Omphalotus nidiformis) from Springbrook QLD 4213, Australia on January 23, 2022 at 10:58 PM by Craig Robbins · iNaturalist Australia (
Thanks, this is my first post here.

Good question. Yes, I think that ideally it should include a photo in clear light (especially for this species and those photos) but the battery in my camera ran out after the long exposures. I plan to drive back today or tonight if I get time. Hopefully the snails didn’t eat it all. Edit: As to whether it’s worth asking the observer (me in this case, but any in general) if they can provide photos in light, I think that’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask.

For other species of bioluminescent fungi in Australia it might not be as necessary, mainly because although they’re smaller they seem to be much, much brighter and you can see the gills etc; e.g. for this one I don’t really think it’s necessary, but if you feel more detail in any observation is required then politely asking the observer if they can provide more details or if they have any additional photos is fine and better than adding an ID to something that doesn’t provide the detail you need

To get an idea of brightness, the observation you linked to is a 312 second exposure ISO 6400. The photo I linked to (the Mycena) is a 30 second exposure ISO 400.


Welcome to the forum @redwoodshroomery

Thanks for your response @0x4372616967. I was hesitating on your images because even though there really isn’t much else it could be, I didn’t feel confident to ID from just the bioluminescence and general shape.
I would agree, politely asking is good approach.

I’ve read that iNaturalist recommends when taking a photo of the same organism at a different time that it should be recorded as a new observation. I guess in these situations a new observation could be linked to the original, night/day light comparisons could be made to help with the overall identification.

I’ve also seen observations of Mycena chlorophos similar to your example where it’s very easy to ID from long exposure images. The features can be displayed with amazing clarity from their luminescence alone. I would think they don’t always require images in light, although seeing the natural colours can be useful too.

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And if they do:



Yes, that’s right. But I do think we have to be pragmatic a tiny bit. If for example I’m looking at a plant or something else that doesn’t move and taking photos of it I might notice a nice insect on the flower and take a few photos of the insect before I go back to my observation and photos of the plant. In this case the photos of the plant, even though they might be out of sequence I would still count as a single observation. Related, if while I was taking a photo of the insect on the plant I happened to take a photo of an anther of the flower while I was distracted with the insect and I could crop that photo to show the anther because it was needed for ID I think that it’s fine to crop that photo and add it as part of the plant observation (i.e. incidental photos of the same organism being referred to, at the same time). I think it’s ok to do that. But if I go back the next day (like I am going to) to photograph the same plant (or fungi) then, yes, that’s a different observation. On the occasions that I’ve done this I’ve added a comment and an annotation to both observations, cross-referencing each other.

So, yes. I agree with you. For cross-referencing I provide links and also annotate the observations with “associatedObservation” which might not be the best way but if there’s a better way I hope someone will let me know :)

Edit: for those just seeing this comment and the observation linked to photo #4 in that observation is what I call an “incidental” photo (I uploaded it after this topic was created)

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I just realised that I might not have answered your question properly; I’m a bit slow at processing things sometimes. You asked if it’s “worth asking” if the observer if they can provide additional images or information. I don’t think I answered that properly. Whether it’s “worth” it or not depends on the person providing a supporting ID and the observer in my opinion. If I was wanting to add a supporting ID and I thought that I needed more information to confirm or rule out other possibilities, then for me it’s worth asking the question. There are quite a few observations of mine (not this one) where people have asked “do you have a closer view of such-and-such” and I can either provide a photo (because I don’t always upload every single photo I take of something) or provide a written description. So long as the request is objective I never take these kind of questions personally because it helps me make better observations in the future, so it’s a win-win and it’s worth it for me because I learn. In some ways taking photos to make an identifiable observation is harder than taking a physical specimen, and people asking questions or asking for clarification on observations makes iNat great.

The other side of your question that I did not consider earlier is whether it’s “worth it” for another person making/supporting an ID. In this case I think it’s still worth asking the question(s), if necessary, not just for data quality purposes but because the observer may have the answers or photos or crops or etc. Different people ID stuff based on informal characters that don’t appear in formal dichotomous keys etc (or they rule out species that they know an observation is not and might be left with just one candidate). Even if the person doesn’t respond I still think it’s worth it because it might help other users with their observations and what to look for or note. So even if the observer doesn’t respond I still think it’s worth it. I hope that makes sense… I just think that iNat is more than just a bunch of observations, it’s also about learning (for me anyway).

You’ve pointed out some very important things there. I’ve come across some observations where others have requested an extra image or description of a certain detail, those comments have helped me a lot in understanding which details may be helpful to look for when it comes to making an identification of certain species. When the request for detail has been on one of my own observations, I’m always happy to give more information/photos if I can. It has definitely raised the quality of my observations and called attention to aspects which I didn’t realise were important when I started using iNaturalist. From this perspective asking questions or requesting more information is always going to be valuable in some way, even if the observer doesn’t respond as you mentioned.

Perhaps my question had an answer that was already staring me in the face, of course it’s worth it. Yet it’s been great to hear confirmation of that from another person. Thank you for your thoughts on this topic, you’ve definitely helped to clear up some of my ponderings. iNaturalist has been a learning curve for me in many ways, I’m sure others feel the same early in their discovery of the website. There’s a lot of good work that is being done here, and I agree with you that learning is a pretty central aspect of the site. I’m sure I discover something new every time I make an observation or attempt to ID someone else’s.

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