Bridging museum characters and field characters: a case study in Ghost Crabs

This forum thread is to accompany this blog post in order to take advantage of Discourse’s superior tools for supporting discussion

Please share your ideas here on how we can better explain and share the characters observers should photograph to support identification (for any group of taxa - not just ghost crabs)


Interestingly, in eastern Australia at least, you often get Ocypode cordimana setting up burrows in bushland abutting open ocean beaches, in some cases more than 100m inland from the sand proper. At the beach I frequent on the mid-north NSW coast, there are huge numbers of burrows throughout the coastal heath and rainforest behind the beach. But despite Ocypode ceratophthalmus also being present on the beach, I’ve never seen them in the bushland. So if you observe juveniles (for which you can’t really differentiate O. cordimana and O. ceratophthalmus because the distinct characters that differentiate the latter, e.g. the eye spikes and the H-shaped dorsal patterning, aren’t present in juveniles) in bushland, they’re most likely to be O. cordimana.



Oh my goodness. It’s so cute.


I guess my main question is what the best format for this type of info is or where to put it on iNat. I’ve made a guide in the past, but this feature doesn’t seem to be used much on iNat. We also have a pdf guide for field identifications we point people to.

Is the aim to have a centralized location or format for this type of info on iNat? I think there are a lot of resources that have this info, they are just scattered around and not obviously accessible. I could definitely put one together for anoles in continental US for instance, I’d just need guidelines on the format and where to put it.


There are some good discussions on this subject here:


This is great! I should do this more often with Euphorbia! Though, most of the herbarium characteristics rely on seed morphology, which complicates things.

On a separate note, the link to the cited article is broken.

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I loved this blog post, and I look forward to seeing more guides like this!

My collaborators and I have done something along these lines with some groups of North American flies at , and I agree it wouldn’t have been possible without the resource of iNaturalist. I’ll be eagerly following this thread.


link fixed - thanks!

I came here to highlight @edanko’s approach, glad he did it himself! Here’s an example of one of his identifications where he links to the guidelines that he and collaborators have created. I feel like I definitely do not use them yet to their full potential, but in terms of learning, I consider them a huge added value (on top of the identification help).

And an example slide of the resources he provides, that I think does a really good job focusing in on the field characters that loarie is talking about, mostly described in accessible plain language:


I guess I’ll bring up my personal #1 desired feature again: Details here:

I’ve also experimented with putting content like this on the forum (, but I found that editing this kind of content on the forum is awkward compared to doing it with wiki software. The forum interface is just too optimized for creating small replies in a longer thread compared to editing a single large, complicated page. There’s no one thing I can point to that’s critical, it’s more of a long list of little things which collectively make the experience painful. E.g. the edit button is at the bottom of the post and you have to use the forum’s custom scrollbar to get to the bottom of the post quickly, anchor links to a section in the middle of a large post don’t work due to lazy loading of content, visiting the thread sometimes sends you to the last post if you’ve already read everything once, the thread is automatically locked after a certain amount of inactivity, the editing area is 1/4 of the screen by default instead of the full screen, etc., etc., etc.

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awesome - I added a link to edanko’s fly resources in the post

Another nice example, embedded into the species page :

A less functional example :
(In the Wikipedia page it mentions the yellow femurs, diagnostic on females in UK at least.
This is so hidden from view though, I can´t see anyone noting it)

However this is developed, I think these notes really need to be front and centre, easily editable from the identification portal and visible directly from the observations themselves.

@loarie - What holds iNaturalist back from implementing any of the different approaches which have already been requested on the other threads?

I don’t think its clear to us that there’s a clear limitation to the generation/sharing of this content that a well defined technology/infrastructure feature would overcome. Maybe we’re a bit gun shy from features like ‘iNat guides’ which had lots of technical bells and whistles and no one used them. We also don’t want to loose our taxon page boundary with Wikipedia (e.g. encourage taxon pages to be fleshed out there rather than reinventing the wheel on iNat).

I was envisioning that people (who aren’t already doing this but want to give it a try) would start by creating this content on journal posts (or Wikipedia articles) and distribute by sharing links in comments and remarks on IDs. But if from this process a clear feature that would help streamline this process we would certainly consider it.

Personally, I look forward to reading over the links shared on this thread and see what I can learn about what people have in mind on the feature front.


What might help with this is improving the ability to create “Guides.” The guides as they are now are not especially useful because all you can do is add species to it, and make a general description for your guide. The “description” that comes up for each species is automatically just the general species description, usually pulled from Wikipedia. If you could write your own notes for each species in the guide, and upload your own pictures for use in that guide, you could essentially make a field guide for a specific area, or a specific subset of animals, or both, and since the “guides” function is already searchable, a user could just search for the guide they’re looking for and they would immediately know if one was available or not. I think this feature could potentially have a lot more utility in the future, if it were restructured.

If this ability already exists, please let me know.

Maybe one aspect could be a really minor intervention, some sort of elephant path approach:

The people I would most like to save input from are the ones who are maybe most time-poor.
The identifiers with heaps of expertise who write little notes here and there but who might never get round to collating it into an accessible document or bigger guide.

Perhaps something super simple like just having the option on the drop down triangle to save aspects of a comment to an ID notes section would help :

Screenshot 2020-12-18 at 22.37.24

Alongside the option for future commenters to drop in a note from the same file somehow :

Screenshot 2020-12-18 at 22.22.11

For me, I do think a clearly defined and one-click accessible space within iNaturalist would help. I´m not convinced Wikipedia is a natural fit in this sense. It feels too broad…and at present, not visible enough within the core space users navigate.


Is there a place in iNat where these guides can be located? Using @edanko’s fly guide as an example, I only know how to access that through links in this forum and on his/her/their profile. So there could be a hidden awesome guide behind a not very well known user.

I’m envisioning a page like “Photography Guides for Identification”, with taxon and location filters where these guides can be organized, eg. Hesperiidae of Southeast Asia.


I love this idea.

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There is a ‘more info’ section in the ‘about’ tab of each taxon page on iNaturalist… this is where the iNaturalist team suggests users collect this info… it’s not well publicized but on the other hand once you’ve seen a resource you never have to look again…?


Are you talking about these guides?

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Word of mouth is terribly inefficient and not searchable. We need to be able to go to a specified place for the information.