Adding IDs for species or species groups?

When I’m using iNat, I try to get as specific as possible when making an ID. However, it’s been brought to my attention that going with the standard Genus specific epithet may not be the most accurate way to make an ID. It doesn’t allow for genetic diversity within the species to be shown. Should IDs focus on getting down the the genus or should they still try to get the specific epithet too?

Personally, I prefer to use group after a genus or specific epithet (i.e. Amanita muscaria group because there’re multiple subspecies which are challenging to differentiate or Datura group because of the visual similarities within the genus). That being said, this made me thing about how iNat works and I began to wonder if it’s the best way to make an ID without genetic testing.

The short answer is that IDs are a community process on iNaturalist, and different identifiers will have different levels of confidence based on multiple factors of experience and quality of the evidence.

The general expectations are that each identifier will identify as specifically as they are reasonably confident doing so. That may vary from Kingdom level to subspecies level, depending on each individual’s experience with the organism and/or the geographic location of the observation, on what evidence they are able to see in the observation, and on what additional information the observer may have provided in descriptions, comments, or their own ID. The community ID algorithms behind the scenes sort out those differences to arrive at the “official” consensus at any given time.

If you haven’t already, it’s worth reviewing the Identifications section in the FAQs also.


I’m not sure I understand what you mean by this. Do you mean that identifying a single individual as a certain species does not demonstrate the genetic diversity of other individuals from the same species? An observation is not meant to demonstrate an entire species, it’s meant to be a record of a specific individual in a specific time and place (source in the iNat guide).

Any identification should be as specific as a person is able to be. That may vary all the way from kingdom to subspecies, and anything in between - depending on the quality of the evidence available, the expertise of the identifier, and the characteristics of the organism itself.

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It sounds like you’re concerned about the limitations of both photographic records and Linnaean taxonomy. There certainly are many species that 1) can’t be readily separated by photos, and 2) are not well defined within a taxonomic framework at present (pending further study using genetics). Nothing is perfect and I agree that in some cases a species-level ID might not be possible.

There might be a place on iNat for creating a taxon that refers to a species group or species complex if few or no records can be reliably assigned to a species. Maybe that’s already being done in some taxa.


Yes, it is being done, and the criteria for creating them can be read at