Deleting common names for crane flies?

Although some of the problem might be the AI/Computer Vision suggestions (nearly always wrong for insects in California, at least, except for a few groups), it appears that folks can’t resist choosing the crane fly species with “giant” in the common name - i.e. Giant Western Crane Fly, Giant Crane Fly, etc. I’m spending quite a bit of time re-identifying these to family. Is it OK to delete the common names for these species, leaving folks with less opportunity to select the wrong species?


I don’t think we should do so if they are real and documented or commonly used common names. I don’t know why one would choose a name just because it sounds cooler, i suppose it is possible, but changing to ‘crane fly’ would be even worse and duplicative. I vote we leave them the same. You could also flag the family/genus in question though and see if you get any other ideas there.


It is unlikely deleting the names will have any impact on which species are shown to the user via the computer vision. Right now there are 23 species of crane flies with the 20+ research grade records needed to be trained on, and a decent chunk of those are either close enough to 20 to have reached the milestone since the training process was run last or dont have enough unique submitters.

The same species list will still be returned, just with only scientific names showing if this were done.


It wouldn’t be changed to “crane fly” - it would just show the scientific name, at least that would be the plan. That’s appropriate, because “large crane flies” (the family common name) is what I’m hoping people select in the vast majority of cases and not a particular species. These are large and conspicuous insects and I think people are picking the wrong species in part because of the common name.

Delete all common names until an observation is identified. Most people that don’t know scientific names also don’t one taxa from another. (Except maybe birds since ABA uses common names as scientific names and birds are easy)

Common usually means “lacking refinement [coarse]” rather than “of the best known or most frequently seen kind” that many optimistically want it to mean.

Even if wrong, an ID can be treated as a starting point, and an opportunity for engagement and dialogue. It wouldn’t be difficult to come up with a friendly worded text that could be copy/pasted, that both educates the new user and builds community. It may even be the reaching hand that fosters a future “expert”

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Come now, plenty of people know what a dandelion is. And the ambiguity of taraxacum officinale vs. t. erythrospermum wouldn’t suddenly disappear if a novice were no longer allowed to call it a “dandelion”.

I agree completely with @kiwifergus above – engage the observer if you feel strongly enough about the ID.


The point is it does not matter if the common names are there or not. There is only a very small set of crane flies the computer vision has been trained on, so if the computer vision thinks it looks like a crane fly, it will pretty much always return the same small set of choices to pick from.

‘Giant Crane Fly’ is a commonly accepted and used name for T. abdominalis, likewise ‘Giant Eastern Crane Fly’ is a commonly used name for P. albivitta.

If there is a common name or not is unlikely to change the behaviour of people picking a species level ID when it may not be possible to actually identfy their observation.


Not sure how much formality is necessary among common names on the site (interesting discussion to look at here, if curious), though I have come to understand that there are specific “precautions” generally kept in mind when assigning vernaculars to arthropods. However, iNaturalist’s only requirement really is that the name is not “made up”, so if the name is in use elsewhere (with “elsewhere” being as ambiguous as it sounds), I don’t see why it could not be added/kept to/on iNaturalist. @jonathan142 and @silversea_starsong may want to weigh in here.

Besides, @cmcheatle is right: I don’t think deleting the common names would address the issue you are experiencing.

As far as these 3 common names, those are valid with (mostly 1:1) usage. I also don’t see any additional issues at this point that would be cause for rejection by common name authorities such as ESA (feasible 1:1 use, specification of higher taxonomic placement). Since we don’t have any current issues with duplicated common names, and due to public use, it really doesn’t seem appropriate to delete the common names here. The variants of “mosquito eater”, though, definitely aren’t a species-specific name so found a different fate.

Unless it turns out that there’s a higher taxon including these that legitimately is called Giant Crane Flies (not just Large Crane Flies) or otherwise different species to fall under that name, these are all probably best kept as-is. If that were to be the case, it might be proper to amend Tipula abdominalis as the common Giant Crane Fly (or common American). I’m not sure if there’s some other amended form that could be argued for, and it’s generally good to be cautious on amending beyond emending. I’d incidentally tried to find something of the sort in use not terribly long ago, myself, but to no avail.

One of the main points here is probably going to be ID correction (there are various fly identifiers who could probably be enlisted to help). Many IDs are added from Computer Vision, which doesn’t seem to work as accurately if there are some rather small sample sizes for some of those species. I’d also agree that just dealing with common names won’t be a sure-fire fix (though a combination of that, amended names, and a bit of outreach did help a little with a small handful of paper wasp species).


Sorry, but this is something that I do not agree we should be doing. If a common name is well-established, we should not be removing it, even if it is abused. We had a similar issue with “common green lacewing” Chrysopa carnea, but in that case we removed it since the species was split into several “common green lacewings”, and no individual species deserved the name more than any other.

We have to keep some level of consistency with the names. Even if there is an occasional cost.

Issues with users “selecting familiar common names” occur in plants, birds and insects across the site, so changing this specific case wouldn’t help the greater issue anyway.


OK, all, I’m hearing the consensus here - will not muck around with the common names. I still think these common names are distinctly unhelpful and really nonsensical in this particular situation. I will continue to correct these IDs as they appear (many per day), as often as I can…

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i think if you’re still concerned about it, opening a flag in the genus (or whatever groups them all) would be a good idea, then there’s a record of it for anyone else reviewing the genus, whereas it’s harder to find here.

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