I’d like to add a common name to something. I believe it is descriptive of the species, and an apt name. It is not published in anything except an article by someone called The BugLady. I’d like to call Epicauta atrata the Red-headed Blister Beetle.
May I add this name? There may be some difficulty because E. wheeleri has the same look, but they are on totally separate continents.
‘Red-headed Blister Beetle’ is a common general descriptor for a wide range of other blister beetles around the world, due to many of them having red heads.
Nature Serve indicates that Epicauta atrata already has a common name in use: Blackened Blister Beetle (although, that is the only source I find using that name).
I don’t think we should be taking it upon ourselves to generate common names here. That should be something that happens more organically. That said, I do recognize that doing so here is part of the organic process.
The main points against the name are the first two though.
I want to commend you both, @silaseckhardt for consulting the community and @earthknight for a thoughtful, detailed reply. This issue keeps coming up (I myself would love to name a couple of Sphagnum species). I agree we should restrain ourselves from single-handedly manufacturing common names, but as long as we have a forum, what about the possibility of proposing a common name in the forum and if it gets to some kind of consensus level, say “yep, now it’s a common name”?
The shortest answer is that iNaturalist does not allow the creation of entirely novel names on iNat itself (though some users may do this anyways…), but does allow adding those that have been used in other sources (though the exact nature of what those sources are/should be often receives debate as evidenced in those threads).
One of the primary reasons for adding common names is to facilitate users finding species using terms and names that may be familiar to them (when they may not know scientific names). In the case that you outlined, it doesn’t sound like the name is currently in wide usage for this species, so it won’t fulfill this goal. @earthknight has also given several good reasons against using this common name as well: that this common name is a general descriptor of a variety of species and already commonly used for another species. Given this, it seems like adding this common name for E. atrata might cause more confusion than clarity, and should probably be discouraged.
My initial thoughts are no to this one. Reasons as follows:
1- Epicauta is a hyper diverse genus with many species, several of which have red heads.
2- E. atratus does not always have a red head. We also have a red-shouldered blister beetle in existence that references the same feature.
3- Blister beetles are still a semi-obscure taxon group, whereby adding a common name does not have quite as much use as it might for other beetles.
On the other hand, there is one consideration which is that it’s a fairly widespread species, so that might help weigh in favour of a common name. What other names could it be called, though?
Basically, it seems like they pick target taxonomic groups, hire people with some expertise in that group to come up with common names, review them, and then publish them in a database. I have mixed feelings about that process, but it’s a reasonable place for Nature Serve to get a common name. The names are available in an Excel file, so I suppose that they could be imported/added to iNat fairly easily. This would also likely be enough of a source to justify adding these names to iNat.
That’s a question for the site curators, not me. As it is a name that is recorded in an official source I suspect that it is ok, but check with the curators.
As for Epicauta wheeleri (and any other species), the short answer is that unless you can find a preexisting common name don’t make up or add any to iNat. If one already exists that’s in use, then check with the curators and provide documentation of the common name.
The role of iNat is to record what’s there, not to make up names and terminology for it.
If you want to try to coin a common name that’s something you’d do off site. If it catches on and comes into widespread use, then great, maybe it would eventually make its way to iNat, but common names should not ne being made of proposed on iNat itself.
Gee, I sure would like to be able to find everything from my vintage Peterson wildflower guide by using the common name the guide gives it. As it is, I have to sleuth out which taxonomic reassignment of something with a different common name means the flower on the page I’m looking at. Adding all those Peterson-coined names would really help (this) someone find that taxon on iNat. I discussed this on the previous thread about adding common names.
Common name proposals are not usually successful discussions though. It’s almost always a case of enough people mentioning it that eventually someone decides its a good idea and just makes the name. In that sense it’s left up to the opinion of whichever curator you are talking to.
It’s certainly true that if you rely on older field guides, the changes in both scientific names and common names over the years can make finding the right species challenging if neither name aligns with current names.
Field guide, printed on paper, with layers of pencilled notes. That IS tiresome. Black and white. Carved in stone.
But online, if the synonyms are listed - it doesn’t matter which one you search for, you land in the ‘currently accepted’ one place. Virtual grows and morphs along with the taxonomists reshuffling the deck. Again.