Changing the way taxon changes are handled

I’ve been trying to understand the rationale for the automatic addition of updated observations and withdrawal of prior identifications when there is a taxon change. An example is the gastropod genus Ilyanassa (Western Atlantic), which for a while was synonymized with Tritia (Eastern Atlantic), then taken back out of synonymy. Here’s an example:

This procedure causes several problems. One is that iNaturalist forces the use of a particular scientific name, even when one has identified the species under a common name or an alternate scientific name. Instead of automatically withdrawing an identification and adding a new one, why not change the observation to say some like “originally added as X, currently represented as Y”. This preserves the observer’s intention while recognizing that iNaturalist needs to have a standard scientific name.

Second problem: This automatic updating happens even if the identification has been contradicted. Here’s an example:

Third problem: The genus Tritia is still valid in the eastern Atlantic, so identifications as Tritia in the Western Atlantic need to be changed to Ilyanassa. This sometimes happens with eggs: This probably needs to be done manually.

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This has been proposed before:
There didn’t really seem to be much buy-in at that time. One of the major concerns is that editing IDs can break the flow of comment threads: for example, if I add an ID to Tritia, you comment ‘No it is Ilyanassa’, and then a taxon swap edits my ID from Tritia to Ilyanassa, your comment no longer makes sense for future users. However, if future users can see that the taxon swap happened after you made your comment, then it will make sense to them. This particular case would not necessarily be all that confusing, but you could imagine more complicated cases like a sequence of multiple taxon changes in a row that would render the comment discussion total nonsense unless it is placed in chronological order.

This is not a problem, it i the system functioning intended; unless the IDer withdraws their ID it should not be eliminated by a taxon change. Sometimes experts add a maverick ‘contradicted’ ID that turns out to be correct!

Are you saying that in the sense of the current taxonomy all Tritia IDs in ~North America are actually Ilyanassa? If so theoretically that could be done as an atlased split, and maybe should have been done that way initially. If that is the case you should flag the genus Tritia.


Thank you for pointing to the prior thread! You said that “One of the major concerns is that editing IDs can break the flow of comment threads”. I agree that making the change retrospectively could be difficult. An example of such difficulties is this observation: (still with Ilyanassa versus Tritia). There are three identifications and three comments; then six taxon changes, three to Tritia obsoleta and then three back to Ilyanassa obsoleta. So make the change prospectively initially, while evaluating how, and whether, to implement a retrospective change.

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