Accessing iNat's taxonomic tree for all terrestrial arthropods?

Hi everybody,

I am not a Curator, but my questions seem too technical for the General forum category.

I am wrapping up my Master’s degree in GIS technology at Northwest Missouri State University. I would like to use iNaturalist as part of my thesis project, so I am writing to inquire about the feasibility of my proposal.

My idea is to assess Facebook’s suitability as a potential source of crowd-sourced observation data. I plan to use observations posted to the Entomology Group (—in part because the posts there are required to contain location information, per the Group’s rules. Because iNat is a popular, established, vetted, and reliable database, I would like to use iNat as the criterion against which the observations scraped from Facebook will be compared. The analytical question would be something like: For a given time period (e.g., March 2022 to September 2022) in a given location (US state or particular country), how similar are the Facebook-sourced species-level observations to the observations posted to iNaturalist during the same time period?

It would be really helpful to have a table of taxonomic names for all terrestrial arthropods (i.e., insects and kin in subphylum Hexapoda, millipedes and centipedes in subphylum Myriapoda, all arachnids, amphipods in Family Talitridae, and isopods in suborder Oniscidea). Is there a way that I can access iNat’s taxonomy database to retrieve such a list/tree?

Thanks in advance for any advice!,




What exactly do you mean by this? You already listed the groups you were interested in; do you want all their descendants as well? To family? Species? You could do that with Explore filters and you could download that data as well. For something more complicated I’m sure you could use API. I don’t think this is something that only curators would know the answer to. Several non-curators have a lot of experience with API that most curators don’t know how to use (myself included).


Just as a side-note, there are some members of that FB entomology group, including some of the moderators, that are extremely anti-iNaturalist.

Expect some backlash from some of them.


Not entirely sure what you mean by ‘retrieve such a list/tree’, but the export tool is here: if that’s what you’re looking for.

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if you need common names, you can try


One thing to keep in mind is that iNat’s taxonomy is constantly in flux, so whatever taxonomic information you export will be a snapshot of what it was like at that moment.


Thanks, Myelaphus. This export tool will be very helpful in a few months when I have collected all my data. But in the meantime, I’m looking for a list of all the millions of scientific names within my target taxa groups. Something like this (but with ALL the insects, spiders, centipedes, etc.):

Can I pull this using the API or…? might be an alternative.

But you probably knew this already and have good reasons for wanting it from iNat.

Ah, I see what you mean now.

A table of that scope is quite ambitious. No one source is going to have a complete list of all species for every terrestrial arthropod. The iNaturalist taxonomy itself is far from complete, and as Tony mentioned the taxonomy (especially in arthropods) gets updated fairly frequently.

If the export tool was faster, I would recommend downloading all observations in your groups of interest, deleting all columns except for the taxonomy information, and then sort | uniq or similar (keep only unique rows). That would get you the taxonomy information for every taxon in the iNat database at that time. However, because the export tool is capped at 200k observations per download and may take hours per download, this process would take a very long time.

Perhaps there is a way to pull this information from the API, but I have no experience with it.

If I may ask, what is the purpose of this table? I imagine if you are comparing observations posted to Facebook vs iNaturalist in a given period, all you need is the taxonomic info for each taxon observed in one or the other during that time period, not all possible taxa.

Wow, comments there… just something, something from well forgotten past of id groups where most people don’t know what they’re talking about, and you’d think iNat insect ids are not excellent.

To make it more manageable, I’ve decided to limit the extent of my investigation to just spiders. And using richyfourtytwo’s advice, I got a list of all spider families and genera from I plugged it into my Python script, and it appears to be working great! There will be bias, of course, but I will acknowledge this in my final paper. Thanks, everyone, for the great insights and advice!

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