Things posted to iNaturalist that were the first ever observation of that organism

Does anybody have a list or project compiling every iNaturalist observation that captures the first discovery/sighting of a new taxon? I think it would be really neat to have one that people can access and look through.

It doesn’t even have to be things described based on an observation. This could also include observations added to iNat much later, but depict the first known individual of the organism/type. Anything taxonomically noteworthy that was discovered on iNat, or discovered and posted onto iNat later would count

example would be an observation like this:


A New Zealand version of this…


I don’t have a link to anything like that, but it’s amazingly easy to get observations that are the first ever on iNat. The biggest factor is location. I’m in SE Asia (Vietnam specifically) and a significant portion of observations here are the first ever recording for iNat.

Would probably even higher, but it’s difficult to get down to species and there aren’t enough people helping to identify species, particularly when it comes to plants and insects.

I’d be willing to bet the same is true for large parts of Africa, South America, and the Middle East. As well as sub-regions, like Siberia.


I guess it’s not about first obs on iNat, but first ever recording of a species.


I think that would be really difficult to parse from iNat data as there are many, many species that have been recorded in the past, but the records are either difficult to find, the names have changed several times since, they were misidentified in the first place, the species has been split, etc, etc.


To be identified in iNat, it has to have a valid taxon, and to be a valid taxon, it has to have been published, and to be published it has to have been described, and to be described, it has to have been discovered…

unless we are talking observations which start out as unknown, and then become identified after all that describing and publishing etc takes place!

For the NZ project I linked above, it includes “first for NZ”, which could be common elsewhere in the world, but be the first occurrence for the country…

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“first known individual of the organism/type” this observation mentioned in the original post is the first known sighting of a species, even before it was described, it was uploaded much later.
Same thing can be said about new spider that was an observation of the week recently, if it will be decribed this obs will be the first known to science.

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Well, that’s not my idea, new species are not that hard to find, I remember that every year there’s a bunch of new geckos described and they all have photos and probably will be uploaded on iNat (I even think that some already were).

you can, it’s the same way you do it for your observations. go to the explore tab and put the species then in filters change sort by from “date added” to “date observed”

Maybe someone could make an umbrella project and projects of that sort for various countries and regions (like the lovely New Zealand project mentioned before).

Well, even I do have a few observation of species, made a few years before formal description, mostly invertebrates. But the problem is that all these cases are far from being equal. Many “well known”, charismatic and popular among phototgraphers species are still undescribed, as there are simply no living taxonomist working in that group. Or because species description in that group are too complex cause many species were badly described in past and a serious revision is needed. Many, if not the most, species being currently described were thought to be same species in the past.

I understand your point about rare species in well known group, but that is quite an exotic case…

Anyway, that might be an interesting statistics, if someone could dig it from Inat datatbase. That should not be very hard to get the list of observation with observation dates being earlier than year of description and sort them.

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The sequencing issues of taxonomy mentioned by @earthknight and @kiwifergus may preclude many opportunities for an iNat observation to be the first record of a new species. At least in moth groups that I’ve worked with, a different but somewhat related milestone is uploading the first known images of a living example of a species. For centuries most moths have been described from pinned specimens. There is the real chance that some of the rarer or more local species described by science might never have been documented alive in the wild. Now with iNatters scouring the landscape and uploading images, it’s happening. Of course, for insects and other invertebrates, BugGuide has been ahead of the curve in that regard, but it still happens on occasion. I’d have to scour my thousands of moth uploads for an example (of which I’ve had a few), but this example of a grasshopper comes to mind:


Yes, what you described would also be included under the scope of what I’m describing. I have one of those observations as well, where the pictures I posted turned out to be the first living example of the species ( Any similarly notable “discoveries” would qualify.

Even if we don’t have a site-wide project for this, I feel it would be good to at least compile any that we find or already know somewhere

See for instance which was in the process of being described when I got to photograph it.

Yeah, point taken!

I think this is a great idea, I’m happy to setup this project

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Not in the process of description when I saw it but this observation was the first recorded images of a species discovered in 1980. Who knows what else has been discovered but still has yet to be seen in photographic form over the last 300 years of species identification!

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Have created a global project based on @gcwarbler’s idea for first known photos of living examples:

@neontetraploid @gcwarbler @blazeclaw I’ve added the observations you guys linked in this thread, hope you don’t mind :) Feel free to add any others you have.


Awesome! Thanks a ton!

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Also I feel like we should include an observation of Mola tecta as well, but I’m not sure which individual observation to add.
I think these are the two candidates: