Cryptic (morpologically similar) species

As a new member of iNat, and as a fish biologist since what sometimes seems like the Paleozoic, I’m intrigued by the potential utility of this site as a research/education tool.

What are the protocols for dealing with morphologically similar species that cannot be differentiated without genetic analysis. Example - bonefish (Albula) are comprised of about 10 spp worldwide, but they all look exactly alike. Geography can help, given that some species have unique ranges. Within the western tropical Atlantic, however, there are at least 3 co-occurring spp that are outwardly identical. Humans are not the only ones baffled at identifying species, since the species occasionally do hybridize.

How does the iNat community suggest that we deal with these cryptic species and hybrids?


I think the general policy is to get as close as you can given the data available. It seems that in the particular stated case genus level is where the identification would stop.

If later genetic analysis was done a link to the results could be posted in the description and a species level ID given, but that would be difficult for others to confirm.


If required, the site also supports the use of species complexes, as detailed here (need to scroll down a touch from where the link leads to)