Common names for genera creating ID errors

I spend a considerable amount of time fixing identification errors that are the result of the person choosing the common name associated with the genus instead of the correct species name. For example, when a person finds a Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana) and they type in Side-blotched Lizard in the Taxon box the first option that comes up is the genus Uta with the common name Side-blotched Lizards. They choose this option which means these records only get identified to genus and those of us who identify are constantly having to add the species epithets to ID.
Another example would be when someone enters “Painted Turtle”, the first option that comes up is “Painted Turtles” for the genus Chrysemys.

Is there a way to ensure that species are listed first before the genus in common names in the pull down menus?

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Given that “The systematics and phylogeny of the side-blotched lizards is very confusing, with many local forms and morphs having been described as full species.” perhaps letting experts sort out the specific species epithet is preferable to potentially a number of species level misidentifications which will then need a 2/3 majority to get them into the correct species. I do not know to what extent this would be true in other phyla. Over in plants I would rather see a correct genus without a species specified than a correct genus with an incorrect species specified.


I agree, if people are just hitting the first entry they see, then chances are they don’t really know the exact species anyway. And I think (as mentioned in another thread) that the computer vision suggestions shouldn’t really suggest anything below genus. That way people can get the observations into the right ballpark without creating more work for others if they then have to counteract an unwittingly incorrect ID.


once again the real problem is the taxonomists, unfortunately we have no control over the continued and extensive taxonomic vandalism that is spreading through most taxa at this point… however creating subgenuses or sections for some of these and emphasizing those would be a good start.

I don’t think that’s really relevant here.

This doesn’t sound like an error to me, just not precise. If you don’t like spending time refining these types of observations, you can limit your search results to high rank=species using the search filters. I personally kind of like the refining-to-species task more than the agree-with-species-ID task.


Hmmm, seems like another opportunity for a list! Species that share common names. Not sure how many people would acually bother to use it, but it would be interesting to know. And yes, before u jump on it, I know that names differ in different places - this is one of those things that require a gross evaluation rather than detailed. Genus level rather than species, as it were :-)

i mean, it’s the literal cause of the problem that was described there,but i can let it be.

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I think this would be useful specifically for species which are the only species in their genus (or family, etc). If someone selects Genus Phainopepla on an observation, the only possible creature it could be is Phainopepla nitens, as there is no other Phainopepla. (I track phainopepla observations and make this correction quite often.)


There have been multiple occasions where I accidentally hit a coarser ID, or the wrong ID with a like common name, on an observation I was 100% certain of, and only realized my mistake when someone disagreed with “my” ID.

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Do you mean something iNat-specific about something malicious that’s going on, or are you just really against taxonomic revisions…? Honest question; I just don’t understand what you mean here.

neither. i am against the rampant splitting to absurdity that is being undertaken by the main push of taxonomy right now but sorry, it’s true it wasn’t fully relevant and i shouldn’t keep going down that tangent.

I’m not able to replicate this from web or Android.

Cassi, the species becomes the first option once you complete entering the full text, however until you get to the last letter, the genus takes precedence on the list, or at least that is the behaviour I get.

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Same here.

Typing “Painted Turtle”, unfinished: genus listed first, species second
Typing “Painted Turtle”, finished: species listed first, genus second
Typing “Painted Turtle”, followed by a space: genus listed first, species second


Typing “Snapping Turtle”, unfinished: family first, species Chelydra serpentina/Common Snapping Turtle second
Typing “Snapping Turtle”, finished: species (C. serpentina) first, family second
Typing “Snapping Turtle”, followed by a space: family first, genus second, species (C. serpentina) third

Looking this over again, I see several other monotypic genera that don’t have this problem generally.

For example, the lizard genus Callisaurus is monotypic. There was only a single record of Callisaurus species in the database (I fixed it) because there was no common name listed. If the common name for the genus had been Zebra-tailed Lizards, I’m willing to bet there would have been a lot more. So a person entering Zebra-tailed Liza… only sees the choice of C. draconoides.

Same thing is true for the monotypic genus Cophosaurus. Only a single error. (fixed)

But the genus Uta (which only has one species in the US) has 92 genus only observations because the common name “Side-blotched Lizard” is associated with the genus.

It seems the easy solution is to remove common names from genera (and higher taxa).
Or maybe put the common names in parentheses or add some other character to push them down the pull down list so they won’t be chosen accidentally?


Welcome to the forum! Yes, I am often adding species IDs to observations IDed to a monospecific genus. So I agree with you 99% here. The one trick would be “teaching” iNaturalist when a genus is truly monospecific, versus when we just haven’t finished adding the rest of the species to the iNat taxonomy yet.


Another set of poor common names is Sun cup(s) representing 4 separate genus. I’ve fixed a few, you have:

Sun Cup(s), Taraxia ovata
Hill Sun Cup, Tetrapteron graciliflorum
Kern Sun Cups, Camissonia kernensis
California Sun Cup, Camissoniopsis bistorta
Jurupa Hills Sun Cup, Camissoniopsis ignota

I’m with @danaleeling and @tonywills in that I’d rather see someone choose a higher-level ID than choose the wrong species. The genus-level ID has a higher chance of being correct, and I think it’s a good lesson that it’s often difficult to get to species. But I do understand frustration when it comes to monotypic genera. I generally just write a short note telling the observer that it’s OK to go to species if they see that genus. To me it’s a teachable moment.


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