Can two different species have the same common name on inat?

I’m sorry if that has already been asked. I have noticed that two different toad species, namely Bufotes viridis (an European species) and Anaxyrus debilis (an American species) have the same common name of “Green Toad” on inaturalist. Is that acceptable? Perhaps it is, so I’m not flagging it until I get an answer here. Although I could imagine this leading to ID mistakes if an user types “Green Toad” quickly without paying much attention to the scientific name.
Wouldn’t it be a good idea to rename them to “European Green Toad” and “American Green Toad”, for example?


Is it the leading common name? I see there’re 3 English names for NA species now, you could add both names from Wiki for those two species. It is acceptable to have same names, especially if one is not the leading name, but if you see there’re many mistakes because of that naming it’s not a big deal changing one established common name with another one or adding new ones.


Yes, the same common name can apply to several species around the world. It’s acceptable, but, as you point out, it’s not ideal as it can lead to misidentifications on iNat.

One example was the red admiral butterfly, which is both Vanessa atlantica in the northern hemisphere and Vanessa gonerilla in New Zealand. We ended up with frequent identifications of the wrong butterfly at either end of the world.

The solution was as you suggest. The main names were changed to Northern red admiral and New Zealand red admiral, respectively, and just “red admiral” was retained as one of the alternative names for each species. That’s worked well.


Yes, “Green Toad” is the leading name for the NA species. I don’t see any “wrong” observations on the map (ie. I don’t see any observations of the NA species in Europe and vice versa), but when I go to the “Similar species” section, it shows that the NA species is often misidentified as the European species (probably fixed by other users though, because we’re talking about fairly common and easy to identify species).

I’ve added two common names for A. debilis:

“Chihuahuan Green Toad” - which is the preferred name from SSAR in their list of “official” Standard English Names for North American herps.

And, I also added “North American Green Toad” which is used on Wikipedia and by others to distinguish from

“European Green Toad” which I added for B. viridis.

This might help a little bit I suppose. I don’t know the species well enough to feel justified in changing the default common names for any place though someone else who is more familiar may be able to comment better.

In these situations there’s always going to be a trade-off between the potential clarification of changing the common name (and avoiding wrong IDs by less experienced users) vs. confusion caused by people not seeing the common name that they’re used to/looking for, and I’m not in a good position in this situation to evaluate which option would be better!


There’s also a Sonoran Green Toad (Anaxyrus retiformis) in addition to the other North American species, Chihuahuan Green Toad. Named for the two different deserts in which they mainly occur.


And interestingly regular old “Green Toad” isn’t a common name for A. retiformis. Though there are so few observations of them that it isn’t likely to be a major issue what the common name is one way or the other I think.

Yes, I notice in the 2018 edition of the Peterson Field Guide to Western (North American) Reptiles & Amphibians that they use Green Toad (for debilis) and Sonoran Green Toad (for retiformis). Kind of sloppy of them as I believe the former species has been called Chihuahuan Green Toad for a while, to distinguish it from all the other “green toads” named from throughout the world.


Yes, common names can refer to multiple species. To solve the misidentification issue, no two species should have the same default common name (the main common name that appears for each species), but there’s no problem with multiple species having the same name among their list of common names.

EDIT: I suppose in select cases, it might be okay to have two species share the same common name, such as Corvus corax and Papilio castor sharing the name “Common Raven”, or if no other common name truly exists for either species. It should be avoided whenever possible, though.

There is no problem with some taxa sharing the same default name. That’s just how vernacular names work, and to pretend otherwise is skirting reality.


Yes, and there’s no way of avoiding it.

For instance, different spider species live in different parts of the world and consequently the species typically encountered in houses vary geographically, meaning that the common name “house spider” refers to several different species globally. Likewise a “garden spider” refers to entirely different species depending on where you are. This issue applies to many thousands of species. It’s just one of the many many downsides of common names 🤷

Sure, you could argue that we should rename them all things like “Scottish house spider” and “New Zealand house spider” and “Western USA house spider” etc etc… but the point of common names is they are the names that are in common usage; such invented names are not in usage by anybody, so aren’t common names. If you’re going to invent new unique names for every species, then you might as well use scientific names, because that’s exactly what that system already does.


The question was “can two different species have same common name on iNat” and of course it’s yes. But if there has been an effort to standardize some common names to make them unique (e.g., North American birds especially, and even North American herpetofauna), it’s a good idea to use those names just for the sake of clarity in communication within a diverse group of people who may be relying on common names more than scientific.


I agree it’s completely normal that the same common name can be in use for different species in different parts of the world. But, on the other hand, most of the “common” names are not common at all. For instance, I can’t really imagine a random person saying “I’ve seen an European Copper Skink today!”, since most of people don’t even know the word “skink”. I’d expect them to say “I’ve seen a weird, shiny lizard with short legs!” :) I believe “Green Toad” is indeed a common name - at least in Europe - because it’s an easily recognizable and very widespread animal. But most of the “common” names are invented by the scientists who describe the species and aren’t in use out of the professional and amateur naturalists community. For us, who belong to this community, things would be easier if one “common” name corresponded to just one species. It’s one of the reasons why I actually prefer to use the Latin names instead.


Anaxyrus debilis = North American green toad; commonly called green toad
Bufotes viridis = European green toad

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Yes, I have a pet peeve. Local species Apodasmia similis is called jointed rush on iNat. I know nobody who calls it that - the ubiquitous name is Oioi. The name Oioi predates the anglo name by hundreds of years too.

More’s the pity, because in the same dune wetland environment is Juncus articulatus, also called jointed rush, and its a noxious weed. I’d like to see jointed rush replaced with Oioi for A.similis about 5 years ago.


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