Does anyone else get bothered by how many observations are marked as "unknown species"?

Sometimes I add basic identification to the “unknowns”, but in some cases, I just leave them as they are because I feel like the author is joking. Some flowers in a vase, a landscape with lots of things, or photos of extremely bad quality. Not to mention things that should not be published on iNat of course. But there was one situation when somebody contacted me asking to remove a wrong identification (suggested by the iNat mechanism - it’s just a machine, it’s not perfect), because the insect was extremely rare, the third observation in history, two previous ones coming from the 1950s. Maybe that wrong identification helped theresearcher find that record instead of remaining in the unknowns forever, who knows.


Flowers in a vase can be IDed as the coarse ID flowering plants (if it’s a mixed bouquet, it may not be possible to go lower), and the wild DQA voted no.


I also usually can find something to ID in a landscape with lots of things, or I will ask the user what the intended focus of the observation is.

Same for “things that should not be published on iNat”. I either paste the frequent response for non-organisms, especially if the observer has something in the placeholder or description showing they intend the observation to be for the non organism, or I find something in the pic I can ID (eg. 2 from today: 1. someone posted a pic of the sun, but there was a little bit of roof showing in the pic, so I identified it as human and commented that I was IDing for the roof as a human artifact 2. someone posted a photo of the surface of water, but there was a super clear image of trees reflected in it, so I identified it as vascular plants, noting in my comment they were visible in the image.)

By the way, I’m just pointing out some ways to ID in these scenarios; I am not suggesting you nor anyone else should feel obligated to use the same strategies or reasoning. I can absolutely understand just bypassing those types of observations.


6 posts were split to a new topic: How accurate are plant signs?

They’re not joking, new users don’t know what iNat is and for what it is, especially if they only use the app.


Some people would use that just because it’s easier, even if they could have done better.

I came across a photo of a boutonnière, which I was able to identify as Lamiaceae – because it was Rosemary and Lavender. The strange thing is that it had originally been misid’ed (jokingly?) as Stalked Puffballs, because it had two macrame balls in addition to the flowers.


Yep, that’s why I added that mixed bouquets might stay at coarse ID…because if they are all the same flower (a vase full of roses) or have some other commonality, they could go lower (though the DQA would probably still be not wild).

Or the observer may come back and say they intended the observation to be for a specific flower in the arrangement.

I have gone with vertebrate when I didn’t know if it was a fish or a whale that was mid-identified as white mullein. Turns out it was White Mullet. Vertebrate is much better than unknown.


The demise of Pisces is very annoying. I, too, often identify unknown fish as ‘Vertebrata’. It disturbs me when I am unable to taxonomically distinguish a fish… from myself…

Can’t you use Ray-Finned fishes (class Actinopterygii) and/or Elasmobranchs for Cartilage fish?


Sure, but knowing that I don’t know what I don’t know means it needs to be that much clearer. General fish shaped thing that could be a fishy shark, or a sharky fish => Vertebrata.


Ah, ok. I thought you were saying you put ALL unknown fish in vertebrata, not just UNCLEAR unknow fish.
Vertebrates is still better that unknown.

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Some things look like deer but are actually bovines or something else, so in the past I’d usually end up IDing as Even-toed ungulates to be safe…and then having a whole conversation with the observer, because the current taxon photo for that Order is a giraffe or a hippo or something else that is not roughly “deer-shaped”. :laughing:


That being said, what do you think it might be?

Okay, based on your knowledge, what is your best guess?

You can start with this list here to check what looks like it

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I promise you, it is not of that order. These have the agility of a dragonfly, and as I said very large.

No iNat profile for laffing gravy?

We will never know what his ‘wasp’ was.


As I already said…Hymenoptera, or Winged & Once Winged Insects.

After analysing the unknown observations in my area, I think there are several reasons why observations are left as unknown.
Some images did not carry enough information for identification, due to the organism being too far away, low light conditions, not well known species eg moths, corals. There are a few pictures with an ambiguous nature. Just saw a mass of dried leaves on a bamboo. Could that be a bird nest or just leaves ? Bird nest may have a distinct style and is able to determine the birds species, but it is for expert level. On another picture, someone posted the base of a tree trunk in the forest. Again this is for expert level considering that there are many species of trees in the forest. There are certain clues like bark patterns or fallen leaves, but they ought to have more pictures of leaves and other clues. There is picture with several plants species in it and the observer did not specify what is the plant in the observation. There are observations with multiple pictures of different species. This is an error that cause the photos to be deposited into an incorrect grouping later. Communication with the observer may solve it or someone will have to correct the mistake when viewing the photos. There are photos which are “picture of a picture”. This is a questionable picture because its origin is not a real organism observed. It is a picture which upon magnified, one can observe the raster scan lines, or printing style. I guess the user wants to know what species it is.
Maybe try to make a fast diagnosis and move on to the next picture. Can always come back later to try harder as a challenge. Some unknown pictures may never be solved.