Checking taxon. status in literature/About before adding or changing taxa or names

Some outdated (non valid) iNat scientific or common names differ from the scientific names shown in the About section of their species pages. The About info. comes from Wikipedia but is often accurately cited from research publications (which are reliable sources; Wikipedia sometimes but not always is). Some names which haven’t been updated on iNat look to maybe have been added from some external database. In the event the additions/changes were from a database after the corresponding taxonomic revision (which they didn’t agree with), it may indicate further review of all sources should be done before making such changes instead of overreliance on databases. I recommend if making any taxon/name change, check lit. including Wikipedia/About pages as a first step, followed by checking primary lit. And especially to avoid overwriting prior manually-corrected iNat taxonomic statuses by updating a large group (like a genus) from a database without checking if it would delete valid statuses. I understand that it would be ideal and easier if databases had the most updated taxonomy (and then everything could be updated directly from a database), but no one source actually contains all updated/valid statuses at once and fast enough, so it remains necessary to check multiple/all relevant sources.

For example, some bats once in Pipistrellus are now supposed to be in Hypsugo per taxonomic revisions, which their About section states, yet aren’t moved there yet on iNat (so I’ve created curation requests). For example P. pulveratus (iNat) is supposed to be H. pulveratus per IUCN and an academic article cited by Wikipedia in the iNat About page. The same applies to common names where applicable.

Note: I’m not saying a mistake necessarily occurred (just that some are outdated). And not saying to rely on any one source or that Wikipedia is “better” than databases. I said to check all, to learn which is correct on a case by case basis. I’m primarily referring to taxonomic revisions themselves.

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Wikipedia might be a way to find sources, but certainly shouldn’t be considered a definitive source for taxonomy in and of itself. I think most folks do take a look at other sources when making updates.

Certainly, for a common name, just because it isn’t listed on a Wikipedia or About page doesn’t make it invalid.

You may want to check out the iNat guidelines on external taxonomic authorities and their usage



I agree, I didn’t imply it was. Yet even Wikipedia often shows (correctly) revised taxonomy (citing taxonomic revisions) which iNat (and seemingly some databases) lag behind.

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I don’t think we should ever use Wikipedia as our taxonomic reference. If they are “ahead” of iNat that might also be an error on their part. Rushing into all new proposed taxonomy isn’t going to go well.


I didn’t suggest doing so. I mean taxonomic revisions (where taxonomic statuses are defined) are sometimes ahead of databases. In some cases (not necessarily all), Wikipedia accurately has happened to cite these revisions, and so is a good “first step” to check. The next step is to check the revisions. The ones I refer to aren’t rushed. Some are many years old. I also mean only to use valid revisions, excluding any revisions which would be “rushed,” debated, or invalid.

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This is already standard practice. Now, if you mean checking the literature that the secondary sources site (where applicable), then maybe not so much. But generally sources are added to all changes.

Valid is entirely subjective, which is why we use secondary sources.


At least for plants, I can say confidently that wikipedia is a better source for established common names than iNat. (I am a frequent editor of wikipedia.) This is because wikipedia requires reliable secondary sources whereas iNat accepts any common name typed by any user.


I agree. For plants, POWO is a good baseline since POWO typically waits one or more years before assimilating primary research. I spend a good portion of my time aligning wikipedia articles with POWO. However, it’s a never-ending process, and of course I’m only one person. There are other editors that believe POWO moves much too slowly.

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I agree that Wikipedia can be a good source for common names, but it also isn’t a comprehensive resource either - so a common name not being found there shouldn’t be taken to mean that name shouldn’t be listed on iNat.

It’s also overwhelming an English language resource. While iNat’s common name system does have some names of dubious quality, it’s also a great resource for common names in a variety of languages and from a variety of sources, including oral traditions, which would be difficult/impossible to provide formal sourcing for.

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@cthawley @thomaseverest @trscavo @charlie
In the example I referred to, some species previously in Pipistrellus have since been moved to Hypsugo in taxonomic revisions. Despite this I saw those species are still in Pipistrellus on iNat, even though their About section lists them as Hypsugo species (About shows Wikipedia, which cited primary literature for those species). I’m not saying anyone added them incorrectly necessarily, just that they’re currently incorrect per their own About pages. This general observation (broadly, e.g. if it applies for additional species in other groups) may in some cases mean curators aren’t checking the About pages before adding or changing species.

To clarify (although I never stated otherwise), I’m not saying to use vs. not use Wikipedia, or to use Wikipedia vs. lit. If I had to choose one I’d choose lit., but it’s not an either-or statement, and Wikipedia often cites lit. anyway. I’d say we should check all current sources to determine what taxonomic status is valid (in clear-cut cases), or arguably most valid (for debated cases - but we must make determinations somewhere). Validity of taxonomic status isn’t always subjective. e.g. ITIS lists “valid” and “invalid” taxon names. Likewise even Wikipedia lists “synonyms” (typically referring to the prior name). Lastly, my reference to checking sources is also meaning we shouldn’t exclusively rely on any one database, whether MDD or Wikipedia.

For example P. pulveratus (iNat) is supposed to be H. pulveratus per IUCN and an academic article cited by Wikipedia in the iNat About page.

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I never do this because many sites either lack a Wikipedia page or have sparse/inaccurate information. And given there are secondary sources, I just go there first. I also run across flags where users are pointing out the contradiction between our taxonomy and the About section but that’s because Wikipedia is either incorrect or is using a different system.

Well accepting a secondary source’s validity is subjective. And each secondary source has to make the subjective decision of declaring something valid or not. Frequently they contradict each other, which is why there is one standardized secondary source for many taxa. This limits our subjectivity to accepting secondary sources, instead of having to sift through the primary literature.


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