Value of a large collection of shells without accurate location?

There is a collection of hundreds of marine shells from French Polynesia that could be inventoried for Inaturalist. It was started around 50 years ago and contains potentially 300 different species. The problem is that the original collector has passed away and, although the vast majority of shells comes from one island, there is no way to know the location for a given since the collection could also contain presents and shells collected abroad.

So there is a potential to document many species, including rare or exctinct ones, but without knowing the location with confidence. Is it still worthy to spend many days photographing those shells and upload to Inat with a location accuracy given as ‘the whole world’?


This is a sadly common occurrence. You can still upload casual observations with a note that French Polynesia is a likely location. I’d add that as the location, but vote no for “location is accurate.” Are you familiar at all with which species are rare or extinct? You can cherry pick interesting shells, but if you aren’t familiar with mollusks it’s hard to know which are interesting. Some of us more experienced malacologists might be able to identify some shells from abroad, but I don’t know if we have enough experts for that.

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iNat’s not really a place to upload collections you didn’t make (maybe GBIF would be better).


You don’t know where or when the shell was collected.

But if you can ID the mollusks, you could make an e-book with the photos. Or you could lend the shells to someone who needs photos for a guidebook.

You also don’t know the dates it seems, so you won’t be able to upload those as not casual ones, plus yeah, you should create a new account for that collector if you will want to.

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Two earlier threads, with comments from shell expert @susanhewitt


I would say: almost no value at all.


Thanks all for your insights, things are clearer now!

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Leporicypraea mappa ssp. admirabilis
Is a new iNaturalist visual record from this collection. It has no location and no collection date. GBIF/SMIB shows this species as eventual for French Polynesia.
Do you confirm it is of almost no value?

Also see: Menathais tuberosa

Given that the locality of L. m. admirabilis is restricted to the Tuamotu Islands, we could infer the shell is from French Polynesia (if it’s IDed correctly), but that’s still not very valuable. It’s circular reasoning. Without date and especially location, it is little more than a pretty shell.


Understood. Thank you.

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