A solution for monotypic taxa identifications

There are a lot of monotypic taxa on iNat, and there are also a lot of observations that get stuck on a monotypic taxa and never get identifyied because the taxon experts go to the subordinate taxon, not the monotypic parent taxon. In my opinion it does not make any sense having identifications be on the monotypic taxon because obviously the identification could be much more specific with the same provided information.

This feature could be done in many ways, but I would consider the best one to be the iNat page directly identifiying monotypic taxa as the subordinate taxa. This would probably require an option in the taxon page to mark it intentionally as monotypic, or something like that, since a monotypic taxon might be “monotypic” on iNat because only one of its subordinated taxa has been added at that time.

Other options could be made, like pop-ups, but I think that would be less efective.

Don’t understand. If the species is monotypic, there are no subordinate taxa (e.g., subspecies). Unless you’re talking about monotypic genera or families.

I think the work should be done with educating identifiers about possibilities of missing many observation because of the taxon rank they choose and how it affects some species.

Yes, I am talking about higher monotypic taxa, in fact I did not mentioned the word “species” anywhere.
One example of what I am talking about is for example the Subclass Equisetidae, that only have one genus (Equisetum), and there are 29 pages at this time full of observations (around 870 observations) identified as a taxon in between Equisetidae and Equisetum. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify?taxon_id=764793&lrank=subtribe
All of them could be at the genus level, but they are not.

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By the way something went wrong with taxon change for Equisetidae and many observations stuck at it while having species and subspecies-level ids.

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I really think that in this case the best bet would be the page educating the identifiers. The amount of observations that fall in this problem is enormous, and the answer could be so simple if the page managed this mechanical and monotone procedure. It also could be enlightening for the user if an associated message is added by the page explaining what a monotypical taxon is and why the identification changed or was added.

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It happens with all iNat, if a subspecies level ID is added it stucks on the higher taxa, unless there are some identifications in the species level for that infraespecific taxon. An example outside Equisetidae for this: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/15355165

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In the absence of a coded solution, some id’ing could be crowdsourced via a page analogous to https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/computer-vision-clean-up-wiki/7281 where people inclined to help can go see common examples.

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Thank you @lotteryd, I did not knew that post, but the thing is that Equisetidae is a extense example, but there are so many monotypic taxa that getting all of them into that list would be overwhelming and unnecesary in my opinion, and also they should be searched specifically for this, which would be also an overwhelming and unnecesary work.
Maybe it coud be interesting to make another different list of monotypic taxa in other topic, just as that one, so then first people help identify this taxa, because they are just very simple to identify if you know them, and second if this feature is applied sometime in the future the “monotypic taxon” option could be marked right away for those that are on the list.

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I was thinking that maybe it also could be added the “monotypic” taxa for specific places, like for example the only species for the genus Macroglossum in Europe is Macroglossum stellatarum. But this may have more problems and should have more research and thoughtfulness probably to be applied, whereas monotypic taxa are easier to research for.

That raised by pdfuenteb is an important need. It would be great if the proposed change of automatic identification of monotypic taxa could be implemented. (e.g. Boulardia that automatically becomes Boulardia latisquama)

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Often when I am identifying and I think I know what species an observation is, but I’m not confident, I’ll just ID it to genus (sometimes with a comment indicating what species my guess would be) because otherwise the observer will just agree with my ID and the obs will become Research Grade even though neither of us really knows what it is. I see this all the time if I instead do a species ID with a “Tentative” comment.
This is awkward though with monotypic genera where the species is similar to species in different genera. I want to go as precise as possible without making a “false” Research Grade.

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The problem I see with that is sometimes location data is inaccurate initially, and as far as I know the system doesn’t have the ability to automatically change the ID to the higher taxon choice if the location changes.

I know I’ve seen forum posts on bug reports where exif data didn’t load, or posts where high volume observers have described their process to upload in bulk and then go back and enter the correct location/date/etc, so this is not an unusual use case.

I suppose one could argue same problem exists currently: I don’t think an identifier is currently notified when the location or date fields change after they’ve made their ID; I could be wrong, but I’ve never seen it happen. Even so, I don’t know that we should compound the problem as it exists by automatically adding more IDs, especially IDs that don’t have a user behind them to go in and change them after the location changes.

Granted, I don’t know how many location-specific monotypic taxa are covered in those scenarios, but that’s kind of my point. We don’t know how many observations would be inaccurately ID by the system. It might end up being just as big or bigger of an issue requiring manual cleanup (as @lotteryd suggested) as it is now.

I think that a little pop-up when identifying, or maybe a notification next to the community ID rectangle that indicates that there’s a lower guaranteed taxon would be best.

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Just to play devil’s advocate here… there are scenarios where a monotypic taxon is known to be a species complex, so a conservative identifier may only want their ID at genus-level. This would apply to a coral like Fungia fungites, which is currently monotypic but is known to harbor cryptic diversity. I would be against a change that automates this to the lowest taxon.

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A observation by me of a (currently) monotypic genus, identified to genus level only https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/20437442
for a similar reason as discussed by Joe-fish.

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well, then the species would not be marked as monotypic. Remember that a curator should be the one that decides if a species is monotypic or not, based on the literature or its knowledge of the specific taxa. Also this example seams a little bit unlogical, because it is still monotypic, is the only species accepted at the moment even if it is a complex. If other species are described in the future for Fungia fungites, then the taxon should be splitted, and probably a complex would be also added.

Maybe then a pop up would be better for this feature, since it would not automatically do the thing, it just will make a question, just as a Potential Disagreement does. The question may be something like:

“(parent taxon)” is a monotypic taxa. A monotypic taxa is a taxonomic group that contains only one immediately subordinate taxon. Are you sure that you do not want to add “(subordinate taxon )” instead of “(parent taxon)”?

With the pop-up option people that knows what is doing could use the parent taxon without problems. Although I would probably never use the immediate parent taxon, I think that it would be more logical using the first common taxa for your options, and comment the species that you are think that it is, but you are not confident enough.

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I think that this is a small and very rare problem that may appear, and that is also very easily fixable. People will eventually see the error and change it, just like right now when a wrong ID becomes Research Grade, because when searching for a taxon a lot of people look at the maps (or at least I do), and if an observation is outside the distribution of the taxa they usually look at that observation, and make another ID if it is incorrect. So this is something that is happening right now and would be solved just as easily.

Automatic lower ID for monotypic taxa shouldn’t be implemented except on a case-by-case basis, in my opinion. Because iNaturalist doesn’t allow creation of taxon pages except for scientifically recognized taxa, observations of undescribed species have to be left about species level. Thus, even when the iNat taxonomy shows that a genus is monotypic, there might be several species represented among iNaturalist observations.

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That is why I said this. Only curators should have the option to mark a taxon as monotypic to avoid this problem, as stated here

The feature that I am proposing only should be marked for well known monotypic taxa, as I said, like Equisetidae, Welwitschiales, Ginkgoopsida, Panuridae, Baroniinae, Agraulis

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