Autofill order for species name not alphabetical?

I’ve only seen this in one situation for me, but when I want to enter “Sceloporus undulatus” as an ID, Sceloporus occidentalis always comes up first. See pic:

It’s a minor annoyance, but I’m wondering why this is happening and if there’s an easy fix. I’m guess it may be because occidentalis comes up as “Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus occidentalis)”, but I have no idea why this ancient scientific name is in the header/display name for this species. It hasn’t been S. undulatus occidentalis for many years and seems like it could confuse people to see that. But many of the other Sceloporus species also display this way (see pic), and they aren’t listed above S. undulatus proper.

I took a quick look at the taxon page but couldn’t see any easy way to change. Any thoughts or suggestions?


I believe the order is based on the number of observations in each taxon.

As an insect identifier, a similar thing irks me with “March Flies.” That is the primary common name for the family Bibionidae, but it’s also listed as an alternative name for the Horse and Deer Flies (Tabanidae). There are more horse flies on iNat than bibionids, so they appear first, too:

I think it would be best to prioritize the accepted scientific name over synonyms and the primary common name over alternatives. But that’s not currently how it works.


Three taxa should not all have the same common name, something there should be changed. Feel free to flag it so we can take a closer look.

it’s completely fine here. Bibionidae is known as march flies in the northern hemisphere, and Bibio is a direct descendant of Bibionidae, so I can understand that one too. As for Tabanidae, they are very well known as march flies as well, albeit in Australia and the UK. Just one of those cases where a few different taxa have had the same common name applied independently


Thanks @chrisangell, I verified that in this case the display order of those species IS by number of observations, so that solves one part of the question.

I can understand the issue with multiple common names in March Flies as covered by other commenters: It’s annoying that common name refers to so many taxa but…I guess that’s common names.

In the case of Sceloporus, though, this is an issue with outdated scientific names being included for multiple species and iNat suggesting those first on the list. For instance, Sceloporus occidentalis gets suggested first (before undulatus), even in the eastern US (where undulatus is the only species of Sceloporus, and the nearest occidentalis is literally thousands of miles distant).

As far as I can tell from Reptile Database (source of iNat’s reptile taxonomy framework), S. occidentalis has had priority over S. undulatus occidentalis since at least 1985, and that’s in the primary herp field guide for the Western US, which is where most observers (both professional and laypeople) are going to be getting their names from. It doesn’t really seem reasonable to me to keep outdated scientific names that have been outdated for > 30 years as a primary way to find species, especially if it leads to confusion for some users?

Is this something where I should flag the taxon and ask someone to change? I’m a curator myself (though with little experience), but wasn’t able to easily find a way to do this. Also, changing stuff even as simple as common names on reptiles can be a bit touchy, so I’d want to check with someone else first.

I wanted to file a similar report, autofill chooses common names in different languages over one that is set in profile.

Okay, so technically it’s fine, but I feel like new users are more likely to get confused when all they know is the common name and not the scientific.

New users call Bibionidae anyhing but flies, so it’s not a big problem anyway, but I think photos of taxa are enough to recognise needed one?

Yeah, I was thinking more of Bibionidae vs Bibio. Users might ID as Bibio when it isn’t just because they’re used to the common name. Might not be an issue though.

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The reason S. undulatus occidentalis comes up at all is because it’s listed as a synonym for S. undulatus. We don’t differentiate between ancient (now you’ve got me feeling old) versus more recent synonyms. If there’s a chance that someone might be searching for something using a synonym, we do want it to be coming up. I agree, though that priority for most commonly observed isn’t necessarily helpful when what’s coming up first is a synonym.

Hmm, that’s a good point about the synonym, that’s probably what’s doing it. I do get that it’s a synonym in this case (though old), but there’s lots of species for which synonyms aren’t listed as well (or which have multiple synonyms going back a ways and one or none are listed).

If the goal of having things come up by synonym is essentially utilitarian: to help people find things (positive effect), then I think that we would want to balance that against potential negative effects (confusion where people select the wrong ID because that old synonym comes up). In this case, based on my experience, it’s pretty clear that there’s some amount of people, mostly new users, making the wrong ID of S. undulatus as S. occidentalis due to this ordering. I’ve got to imagine that happens for other taxa as well.

It doesn’t seem like it would be too hard to make a rule that prioritizes the current valid species name over other synonyms that contain the name in search result order when there’s a conflict. This could allow people to still find taxa via old synonyms, but avoid some of the negative effects by prioritizing the most likely/correct name at the top of the results. Maybe I’ll write a feature request for that.


I’d vote for that feature request.

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Please make it a feature request. It’s annoying and in practice it doesn’t help with faster ids, it’s impossible to remember how uch you need to type before seeing right id if they’re in random order.

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Now a feature request. Feel free to chime in with ideas/improvements!

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