Autonym - type subspecies

It is so frustrating that iNaturalist has lots of subspecies included but neglect to include the autonym (type) subspecies - even though this is usually in POWO. In the last month or so, I have had to add in about 50 or 60 such names into iNaturalist just for Western Australian plants.


I’ve noticed this problem also in bees, wasps, and bats. Often it’s also the nominate subspecies which can’t be searched and added to taxonomy through the other route of using “search external name providers” in the ID field.


Seems like that is something that could possibly be fixed automatically by one of the staff. They should be able to do a query to find all taxa with a subspecies or variety that does not have a corresponding autonym. I don’t know if they could mass-create the missing taxa though.

Looking around, I found a post on the opposite problem here:

As @loarie was involved in that, maybe he knows. Unlike that problem, this seems to be a case where people wouldn’t need to individually assess each instance. Creating missing autonyms causes no taxonomic issues and they can be lumped if needed if someone ever lumps the other subtaxa within a species.


I have found some (not many) where POWO has a couple of subspecies but not the autonym subspecies. It is not a problem in iNaturalist, as I can add them when I find them, but it all takes time away from adding new observations. Hopefully time will improve it all. It would be good if they could be added automatically


There used to be many many more. It seems like POWO has been addressing that issue at a pretty fast pace lately. Either way, though, we can’t get around having to manually add them to iNaturalist unless, like @keirmorse suggests, staff can come up with an automated process for it. The complication is that it also involves updating Taxon Framework Relationships to match.

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As these are added please do avoid adding common names that are the same as at the species level. Otherwise the subspecies gets tagged in by people who mean to do just species level ID


Does anyone know why nominate subspecies often can’t be found in “search external name providers for species name” in ID fields, even when GBIF does include them?

As for what common names to use for nominate subspecies, some use a format where if the species is Eastern Carpenter Bee, the subspecies is Nominate Eastern Carpenter Bee.


If i added a subspesies but the spesies did not have the nominate ssp. listed, should i add the nominate too?
And what’s the point of nominate ssp. if the species only has single ssp.? I notice some species only have the nominate ssp., but did not have any other.

No species should have only one subspecies. If that’s the case, the species is monotypic and should have no subspecies designated. Maybe a leftover from when more than one subspecies was recognized in that species?

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If that’s the case, should we merge the ssp. to the parent?

One of the case that i know

I guess I’d make certain that the species is not currently recognized as polytypic (has two or more subspecies that are currently recognized).

As the case of the taxa that i present, no other ssp. is recognized right now. But the present of another ssp. is possible because the taxa has a very wide range

Do you mean, no other ssp. is recognized here in iNaturalist?

Or, do you mean no other ssp. is recognized in the external taxonomic authority that iNaturalist uses for its framework?

Yes, because by it having subspecies it means it must have a nominate ssp.

These cases can occur (and need to be corrected), although I’ve often seen species be missing some/all of the subspecies they should have, so it’s necessary to thoroughly check first as you advised.

For this species, the other subspecies is from Indonesia in 1938: Orthetrum sabina subsp. viduatum Lieftinck, 1942 (by the way, using authority name and year is often useful in searching sources to learn if a taxon remains valid). I don’t know whether this ssp. here it’s still valid and probably won’t be the one who checks further. I initially assume it may simply not have been looked into much since 1938 (there are many like this). In cases like these I suggest caution (if you plan to remove them), or at least a thorough search, and to ideally ask taxon- or database- experts if possible.

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As far as my valid source go, the answer is both. WOL listed the then species as synonym of O. sabina, not ssp.

I think this is the case when the taxa is synonymized, everyone just treat the taxa as an ssp., which is wrong.
WOL and IUCN Red List do this correctly, but some authorities don’t.

I meant to include the link which is from GBIF and includes the specimen and a det. label photo, which indicates that it (at least at that year) was a subspecies. In this case I haven’t checked other sources to learn the current status, but I recommend doing so. There are also additional sources like ITIS, etc. Take caution that sometimes subspecies simply go unmentioned in some sources despite being valid, e.g. Discover Life mentions subspecies on bee species pages but doesn’t list them as individual taxa pages.

I see. Because the status is not very clear yet, i would rather not to delete it.
Thanks for your thought.

Yes - if you add a new subspecies and the nominate subspecies is not already there, then it should definitely be added

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