Curating locked taxa

@choess, all your work curating taxa is a huge help.

Branches of the tree should only be ‘locked up’ (ie has a curated Taxon Frameworks) if every taxon is already added.

This means the work to be done is not longer grafting taxa (which as you say curators who aren’t Taxon Curators can’t do in these cases) but making Taxon Changes which non-Taxon Curator curators can do.

For example, trying to graft Luscinia cyanura says ‘destination covered by curated taxon framework’

According to Wikipedia, this is a synonym for Red-flanked bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus) which is the name iNaturalist uses.

In these cases, rather click the ‘Add Taxon Change’ button and any curator should be able to create and commit a Taxon Change like the following. If you can’t there’s a bug and please report.

There are Taxon Frameworks for some groups like Mantids where perhaps the External Reference (in this case Mantid Species File) isn’t adequate and there are too many ‘legit taxa’ being observed and imported that aren’t in the External Reference that the Taxon Framework might be causing more harm (ie bottlenecking grafting) than good (ie preventing duplicate taxa). In these cases the Taxon Framework should probably be removed.

But for most of the branches with Taxon Frameworks (e.g. mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, etc.) I’d argue that at least 9 out of 10 ungrafted taxa relevant to these groups should not be grafted and rather should be swapped into an existing grafted active taxon. If you’re getting a different sense of this proportion, maybe I’m not following this carefully enough and should do an assessment. Also, I’m not meaning to be the sole Taxon Curator for so many groups, thats meant to be a temporary situation while we get the bugs out and recruit/train more Taxon Curators. If anyone would like to try being a Taxon Curator for a certain group who already has a lot of experience being a curator please let me know and I’ll try to go over some of the Taxon Framework features I’m still trying to properly document.

The one group that is throwing this system off are ‘long extinct taxa’ like this fossil Kangaroo Macropus goliah that just got imported. Any curator can add an ‘extinct conservation status’ so we can at least track this as extinct. But it is true that only a Taxon Curator can graft them to the tree. Its a real pain to figure out how to make an exception for extinct taxa that I haven’t got around too. But since extinct taxa are basically unbounded (ie there’s literally thousands of fossil mammals we haven’t yet added to our ‘complete’ tree) and they don’t really have anything to do with the core of iNaturalist which is observing living things, I question whether we really need to be grafting these nodes. My preference would be for curators to rather make these extinct taxa inactive and leave them ungrafted, which any curator can do (at least for the vast majority of these where there are no observations). Curious what you think about all of this.


That is definitely good to know! I think some of the message wording on the site may have been conveying an impression that locked taxa were completely hands-off to all but designated taxon curators, including for swaps into existing taxa.


Still a problem, and getting worse. Not only are many of these difficult to graft, but people are importing them and then not even using them.

As was recently pointed out to me, col and eol have extinction status built in:


Can we maybe prevent name imports on extinct taxa?

While there is documentation in the curator guide that iNat is not the place for extinct taxa to be entered or documented, and that curators may choose to inactivate and not graft any that are found, there is nothing about this in the help file Missing species which more users are likely to see.

I’d also recommend adding language that mirrors what is in the curator guide to that location.

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This is going a little on an off-topic tangent so feel free to moderate me to a new topic.

I’ve been pretty ruthlessly inactivating the myrads of ungrafted dinosaur taxa that keep getting auto-imported. I’m going by the advice on the curator guide, but I’m also noticing that many of these have been manually labelled as extinct clades by others, which makes me feel like I’m doing someone else’s work.

What’s the consensus here regarding these? There are also a ton of ungrafted higher dinosaur taxa, sometimes containing dozens of descendants, none of which have observations. The process to inactivate these is pretty time-consuming, as one has to inactivate all descendant taxa before inactivating the parent. Is there a faster way of doing this? Some days I feel like I’m wasting my time, other days I think it’s worth it, as clearing these allows us to see other ungrafted taxa that have been pushed down ‘below the fold’, so to speak.

I’m not sure what you mean by someone else’s work, but I marked a lot of them extinct so that I could see at a glance what to ignore for now until there’s a consensus for how to deal with them. Now when I go through the list, I find it easier to get to the ones I can actually take care of.

As far as consensus, everyone I’ve talked to about it has no qualms about inactivating long-extinct clades that have no observations and no flags requesting curation. But I haven’t talked to the people bringing them in, so I don’t really understand their motivation.

That’s why I made the ungrafted taxa tool. Now with even more functionality,

I have done a few but have scaled back / stopped. Simply because the wording in the curator guide says curators ‘may choose’ to do this, but does not outright say it should be done, and I’m not really willing right now to deal with the blowback from users who are adding them / want them in the database.

Since no one has put forth any arguments to keep ungrafted extinct taxa, I’ve also gotten more ruthless recently. I will inactivate extinct ungrafted taxa if:

  • no IDs
  • no flags
  • no photos/common names/other manually entered info
  • at least a month since creation

So far no complaints. If anyone wants to tell me I shouldn’t do this, I’m happy to discuss.