Allow endemicism to a continent again (Establishment Means)

This post derives from this flag I made on the Platypus taxon page, where it is listed as “Endemic” to Australia", but one cannot mark it as “endemic” to Oceania.

For every species on iNaturalist and every place it occurs, one can note their “Establishment Means” with the options being “Unknown”, “Native”, “Endemic”, and “Introduced”. Though tedious, I like adding Establishment Means to the locations that a species occurs because it automatically lists the Places on their taxon page. (Unfortunately, simply making an Atlas or adding a species to a Checklist does not list the Place on the taxon page - it needs Establishment Means to be listed.) I also feel that that information should be accurate, especially since you can search for taxa when viewing them via Places by whether or not they are introduced, endemic, etc. (for example, (check out what species are endemic to Brazil).

However, it is impossible to set species as “endemic” to continents on iNaturalist. @loarie does not remember why the devs made this the case, but he noted that countries do not necessarily nest within continents in the same way counties/states/provinces nest within counties, and I agree with him. The Hawaiian Goose may be endemic to Hawaii, but it arguably isn’t endemic to North America since Hawaii is a Polynesian archipelago much closer to Oceania than North America. However, I don’t think this is a catch-all problem. For example, the American Black Bear absolutely is endemic to North America. And for species like the Platypus - which is endemic to a country (Australia) that is objectively nested within a continent (Oceania), but cannot be marked as so - marking it as endemic to a continent should not be a contested issue.

I would like to have users (or at least curators) be able to mark species as “endemic” to a continent, or at the very least receive context as to why we currently are not allowed to.

It was removed after this discussion:

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Thanks for the context, @bouteloua.
On one hand, terms like “endemic” should be meaningful and have purpose. On the other, I feel like saying it “doesn’t really make sense and doesn’t teach enough about the species” takes some objectivity away from the word, and makes having the ability to search for a species by whether its “Endemic” or “Introduced” on the continent place pages meaningless.
I also disagree that the information is meaningless: this is anecdotal, but I know of people who are genuinely surprised to learn that Lions occur outside of Africa. But I won’t push for this if there is consensus in the community.

However, I do feel strongly that if a species is endemic to a country (like Sri Lanka) and that country is definitely nested within a continent (Asia), than the endemicism should carry over to the continent.

There are a few reasons why this is a bad idea:

  1. Political boundaries mean nothing in the natural world. Nearly every species found in western Europe can be found in central Asia as well, as both are in the Palearctic realm. In fact, Asia is divided into three biogeographic realms (Palearctic, Indomalayan, & Australasian), all of which have very different flora fauna from one another. The only continents that belong to only one realm are Europe and South America (Palearctic and Neotropic, respectively), and both of those realms are shared with another continent (or continents). In fact, it would make much more sense to create iNaturalist standard places for each of the eight realms, and even then the term “endemic” would be meaningless, as is detailed below.

  2. If “endemic” is to be used as a term to assess urgency of a species’ protection, it should NEVER be applied to continents. Currently, “endemic” means restricted to a relatively narrow region (typically for breeding), and is therefore used as a sort of buzzword in conservation. If we applied the term to continents, virtually everything terrestrial save fungi, invasives, and Arctic fauna would be listed as endemic, therefore making the word pointless. If we are going to use the term, it should be used to describe a species restricted to a single country, state/province, or ecoregion.

  3. As mentioned above, everything would be listed as endemic. Everything. Even if all of the site curators and most of the active contributors sat down to list everything, it would take a very long time for anything to be accomplished. Going through tens of thousands of beetles (and finding distribution information for each) is not something anyone (I would assume) would want to do.

  4. It can create a conflict of interest as well. For example, the Rusty Crayfish (Faxonius rusticus) is endemic to North America, but introduced in Canada. That would require the species to be listed as “endemic”, even though its introduced range is wider than its actual native range. Since “endemic” virtually always refers to species with no established non-native populations, information across the site would become confusing and contradictory.

In conclusion, continents rarely mean anything to species, the word “endemic” would lose almost all meaning, the actual overhaul process would be horrible, and species native to one country on a continent and introduced in another on the same continent would be listed as “endemic”, further clouding the definition.


I could possibly see the value for Australia but it’s also a country. Please don’t do this for North America. It makes the endemic “badge” more or less meaningless.


I have to say I agree with @bwaner2019 and @charlie, and others on the iNat team do as well, so I’ll close this request.

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