Common Name Being Deleted - Mardi Gras Sharpshooter

The common name for Oncometopia alpha keeps being deleted. iNat shows who creates a name but not who deletes it. Is there a way to find out who is deleting the name? I would be more than happy to contact them and request that they leave it. Though some people might not like or use a common name, I think it should remain if entered (and hopefully not a slur or other insulting name) becaue it is being used by some.


This is an interesting one; when I search for ‘Mardi Gras Sharpshooter’, I can’t find any uses of it at all outside iNat. Where is it being used on other sites?


I didn’t edit this taxon, but have removed some suspect common names in the past (usually after notifying person who added it). In general I am leery of iNat itself becoming a primary source for common names (or being misconstrued as a primary source), or iNat’s visibility disproportionately and artificially increasing the prominence of names that may have been used casually, jokingly or descriptively (e.g. a green frog vs a green frog) by 1 person in a message board. The BugGuide page for Oncometopia alpha) credits iNat for “Mardi Gras Sharpshooter”, creating a circular reference. For relatively obscure taxa that lack established or any common names, I think the potential for an iNat “spark” to spread throughout the internet and unduly influence tomorrow’s generation of primarily online-educated users who may not check reliable sources is all the greater.


8 posts were split to a new topic: Managing offensive common names

I agree, common names tend to cause more problems than they solve. However, in my experience, when introducing people without a science background to new species, I find that scientific names are significantly more intimidating and harder to remember than common names.

As for the common name for Oncometopia alpha, I can’t say that I am aware of that common name having some vulgar meaning. I am not deleting it, so I cannot say for sure, but it is probably being deleted for a different reason. I rarely edit/delete common names, but when I do it is usually because the names appear to have come out of nowhere. In other words, a thorough search finds no evidence of the common name being used. Can you support that this is a common name for this species using sources?


I know some impromptu common names users are creating for leaf miner species have recently been deleted because I received a project update discussing this problem of names being created then seemingly causing more erroneous IDs with a plea to not do it!


Howdy, that would be me who keeps deleting it! Oncometopia alpha does not have a common name, it was made up on iNat. At least for the common names of hoppers, we reference papers for the use and acceptance of common names. You’ll see some things are getting moved around and changed. For example, Oncometopia clarior was dubbed “Blue Sharpshooter” on here and Oncometopia nigricans “Florida Sharpshooter”. Kyle and I went into the papers and found O. nigricans actually does have a common name (Black-winged Sharpshooter, for whatever reason). :)

edit: Also didn’t know you could see who’d created it! Sorry for not contacting you earlier :P


I’m not sure I understand the rationale for not creating a new common name on iNaturalist for a species that lacks one. Granted, if there is an existing name that is in use and not controversial – and especially if it has been “standardized” by some organization, such as AOU, to achieve some uniformity – then leave it alone and don’t add another name. But if it’s a species that no one, including the describer, has applied a common name to, then proposing an appropriate one on iNat doesn’t seem like a bad thing. A common name is not like a scientific name, there really are no nomenclature rules about inventing or using them.

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Arthropods are fairly problematic regarding common names as it is. We want to be immensely careful with introducing common names, especially “cutesy” names like this. There are very few permissible ways to introduce common names in general with insects, and a rationale of just wanting a name wouldn’t suffice (using ESA for reference, range or diagnostic traits are typically permissible; denoting who the scientific name is after is also often permissible; usage should only apply to the one species; preference is given to species of medical concern, economic or ecological importance, abundant occurrence, etc.). There also generally should be some reason why the name is applied to one species and not to another (which helps maintain 1:1 usage).

(The summary being: new common names should help make identification easier, not add to confusion as has been documented in a few taxa.)

This also follows site guidelines noted in the New Taxon Name page:

Try to add names that have been used elsewhere. Please don't invent new names.

Given that this name doesn’t occur anywhere else and really doesn’t seem to match typical criteria for new, permissible common names, I would also be in agreement that it wasn’t appropriate to add in the beginning. I would suggest, if an English name is absolutely desired, to try to fill out submission to ESA. I have a growing list of names I’m intending to submit, myself.

That said, I do agree that it really would be good to have better documentation of removed common names. One thing I’ve been doing is documenting some of the obviously wrong or made-up names. This prevents someone from finding a name removed and having no idea what happened. It also serves to note why a name was removed.


Well, they could be added, but you need a paper for it, some are against using latin name as a base, I’m not, it’s still easier to write than remember all letters in original name.

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Is there a reason why people keep writing that common names are only acceptable if found in a paper. Is this a new policy? I would have thought field guides, national biodiversity databases etc are perfectly valid?

I still agree they need to be documented as legitimately in use and not being invented on inat, but why the new restriction?


it’s not a new rule, it’s pretty standard. random people making up common names isn’t really useful. one can feel free to use whatever name they want for something in their own practice, but, by definition, a common name must be something accepted by the academic community. :)

edit: as always, there are exceptions.


I’m not disagreeing with the notion that inat users should not be creating new common names, they should not be doing that.

I’m disagreeing with the notion that a common name is only valid if you can cite a published paper. This will be a huge problem for languages other than English. For example there is no doubt with many field guide and other printed matter that the Danish common name for Orcinus orca is Spækhugger. Would I be able to find a peer reviewed paper in Danish that validates this, pretty unlikely. So therefore does this mean remove it?

The academic community is not the arbiter of what a common name is, that is an organic, external process driven by the broader community.


On what basis are you saying this? That is precisely the opposite of what a common name is. If someone comes to iNat wanting to find the organism by that name, they should be able to find it, what the academic community thinks is irrelevant. If a name isn’t actually used elsewhere then sure, delete it if you think so (although I’m not totally sure why you would, this seems like a great common name to me). Nobody gets to decide that a name is illegitimate or impermissible if it’s actually being used.

I’m not sure where the guidelines above by @jonathan142 are coming from, as far as I know there is nothing remotely like this in the iNat documentation.


That’s quite like any new common name appears now.

Agreed. By definition, a common name is just that … a name other than a scientific name that is applied to the organism and may be used in the vernacular of whatever language is spoken. There is standardization of common names for many groups of organism (usually done by committee), but even that is not always rigorous. Many plants have multiple common names within the same language. The idea that common names have to be regulated in the same way as scientific names is mistaken.


There’re scientific common names and just common names, and first don’t work the same as second, I don’t care much about English common names in terms of their creating, but just looking at the process of changing common names for birds makes me feel it’s not different there, e.g. plants have strict structure of common names and if there’s a set of common names for the species some are scientific and some are not, this system is closer to latin system in words order, birds are not and their names are under rules of Russian language, so дрозд чёрный is a wrong scienific common name, while чёрный дрозд is a right one.

I’m not saying that citations are necessary. Yes, sometimes names enter common usage in a region and they become acceptable. However, most true common names are backed up by an organisation or academic entity. It’s like how the IAU gives designations to minor planets or AOU for birds. Sure, you can propose common names to the organisations that standardise them. Absurd ones are accepted all the time. There’s an occasional issue on iNat of just making up a name because someone titled their Flickr post “Rainbow Leafhopper;” it’s simply not very useful to the community, especially once there are hundreds of "green leafhopper"s. Basically, if it’s not common, it’s not common.

edit: spelling

@jonathan142 outlined the issues, standards, and reasoning of the issue (I don’t think I could state it any better). He offered a pretty detailed explanation of why it’s problematic to have people making up common names. This is the standard for iNat. And what may seem like a great common name to you here, simply isn’t a common name. That is why it’s being removed. It’s not being used. At least not by anyone except whoever initially made it up on iNat. It’s probably worth noting there are some nearly identical species of Oncometopia slightly south of Arizona as well. Hope that helps :)

I have not seen a single person argue that Flickr posts or Instagram or blogs etc are acceptable proof of common use. Heck by that standard even spelling mistakes would be "acceptably published ". The concern being expressed by myself and others is that somehow only “academic acceptance” is valid for common names.