Will iNaturalist allow upload of prehistoric species/fossils in the future?

As a high school student naturalist, I registered and joined iNaturalist 3 days ago and found this community amazing and excellent! I could see different species worldwide and the diverse world of life is really breathtaking. I noticed that the website only contained species that exist now or distinct in recent centuries. However, could developers consider to add prehistoric species to the taxon data base and users can provide fossils of these species to the observation in the future?


Observations of Prehistoric and otherwise extinct species can and have been made, but can’t obtain research grade due to one qualification of that being recent evidence of an organism. Feel free to upload evidence of organisms from any period, though, as iNat’s system allows for it. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong?)



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I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself. We are happy to have you here!


Those taxa are not aded basically because they’re not target species (and sometimes complicate taxonomy a lot), you can still add them from external resources when you add observation, but yeah, don’t forget to mark them as no recent evidence (>100 years since organism lived).



Nice question

and @Laplace_Demon welcome to the forum.

Maybe we should suggest a totally separate structure for “fossil” type observations. Atleast if it gets collated we have some place to keep looking and learning (and contributing). I have about 10 fossil images and don’t know what to do with them – maybe wikipedia ??


Another problem is identification. @danebury216 sometimes posts insects in Baltic amber (i.e. Nematoceran Flies (Suborder Nematocera) from Zelenogradsky District, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia on February 27, 2021 at 11:41 AM by Martin Fowler. BA457-B: Midge in Baltic amber · iNaturalist.ca). Most of his observations can only be identified to Family or Subfamily. But it’s fascinating, all the same! I love fossils.

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Posting of fossils also brings with it a significant risk of poaching depending on if they are in situ or not which is an additional complicating reason for their not being a focal point for the site.


There are lots of fossil observations, and even some projects, but most curators don’t really try to fit them into the tree. There’s enough other work to be doing that’s higher priority. Vertebrates especially will be hard, but you can still post casual observations.

Here’s some other relevant threads:


Yes, I know. Poaching of fossils is really a serious question to consider.

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I think myFossil is an iNaturalist-esque app for one to upload fossils, although I don’t think it’s as popular.


What officially constitutes as “recent?” For example, this observation of a dead great white shark is accurately dated to August of 1938. The average person wouldn’t exactly call that “recent,” so what does the website consider “recent evidence?”

EDIT: It’s super rare I know, but what about organic material (hair, skin, complete organisms) from extinct Ice Age megafauna preserved in ice? Is that “recent evidence” even though the animal died tens of thousands of years earlier?

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Organism was alive less than 100 years ago. This may become a problem as we get further into the 2000s and pass the point of the oldest observations, but currently it works. 1938 is totally fine. A well-preserved mammoth, probably not.


Plus many observers post things ith correct date an place, but they couldn’t physically be ones to observe them in early 1900s, so we have quite a few observations in need of casual status that are currently not.

I don’t personally think it’s that important that someone be the literal observer of something to post it. If the date and place are correct, they have permission from the real observer, and there is no duplication (such as for museum specimens) it doesn’t negatively impact the site. There is no need for those observations to be Casual if the date and location are correct.

There is a certain need as they post from their account, not one created for the author of observation, you have to see the object of observation at initial place and date to be able to post it, it’s how iNat works, it should reflect your experience, not a guy who died in last century. Plus of course it duplicates data that is already in GBIF anyway.

Sure, it should, but it’s no big deal as long as they meet the criteria I listed in my last post. And I specifically said no duplication. However, if they meet those criteria, who cares? It’s an incorrect species for their life list, maybe, but it won’t negatively impact the site or data.

It’s a big deal because it’s against the rules, by your words anyone can just go to museum, photograph everything with dates and places and bam – have thousands of new species that they maybe never saw at all alive, not even in 1905. And there’s pretty much always a duplication, because collections are used for getting data from them, and you can upload info directly to GBIF if it’s not there yet, there’s no need to use iNat for that, and if you want to just upload your photo, then make it casual, as it’s easy and ok.

I specifically said nothing with duplication! So, not museum specimens!

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