A category for thrombolites and stromatolites?

If you’re not familiar with a stromatolite (and the similar thrombolite), it’s a unique microbial community with an ancient evolutionary history and extant in just a few small marine ecosystems, most notably Shark Bay in Western Australia. Unfortunately, per iNaturalist, there’s no good way to classify these observations other than as Bacteria or Cyanobacteria. I periodically see these identified on here as Australomedusa thrombolites—this is a hydroid associated with this ecosystem and the only taxon containing the word thrombolite.

It would be far better if there was a non-Linnaean category for this group. I understand that this is generally frowned upon here, but I also understand that exceptions are made on occasion. This warrants an exception. There needs to be a good way to categorize these observations.

Rather than flagging a taxon with this request, I thought I’d open it up to discussion here in the forums.

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@lotteryd had a similar topic lately…

Oh yes please. It is very confusing for the layperson!

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There have been discussions about the same for mangroves, lichens, and a few other distinct but non-taxonomic groups.

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Do you have an example of this? The only things I can think of are where there are debates about having taxonomy strictly follow phylogenetics.

Some relevant threads:
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/create-a-id-category-called-mangroves-that-captures-the-different-families-that-make-up-mangrove-species/6927
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/separate-lichen-and-fungi-into-two-categories/5212
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/what-is-the-best-way-to-classify-biological-soil-crusts/9113
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/is-it-worth-creating-a-few-higher-level-common-names/11952/10

It would probably be best to create a traditional project(s) for these groups. Similar things have been done for galls, leafminers, and other morphologically-similar-but-taxonomically-diverse groups.

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Ah here: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/roughly-categorizing-life-mixes/14872

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This doesn’t solve the issue of users not knowing how to identify these organisms, nor does it make these observations easily searchable for anyone who comes here hoping to find a stromatolite.

One such exception that formerly existed was for Physalia, which has several undescribed morphotypes that had their own pages. I actually flagged that one to be removed, but clearly the technology exists to create such non-Linnaean categories on here.

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The observation field for “Microbiome” emerged from that thread, and I have just added the additional value “microbialite” as a new option in case it could be useful. People could use that if they like, even if just as a stopgap ahead a more precisely gradated new observation field for microbial carbonate sites.

Either way, I do like how the observation field method works out- records are id’d by 2 people as Life, the DQA “can’t improve” is ticked, and the field is added. Then it gets filed in Casual, but immediately recall-able as a set with similar records by clicking through on the field and value.

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