Fixing a widespread misidentification

This anemone is not Actinia australiensis. Rather, it is an undetermined species of Anemonia, probably closest to Anemonia mutabilis. The misidentification stems from an earlier publication (Fautin et al 2008), which I initially repeated on iNaturalist.

Question: There are currently 66 misidentified observations. It would be quite tedious attempting to fix this manually, since many of these will have multiple confirming IDs that also need to switch.

Is there a better way to do this?


66 is not too much, copy+paste tags of other experts with each id of your own, so it’ll be fixed faster, if there’re roo many ids before you, click on “can be improved” so it goes back to needs id. I don’t see any other way, especially if this species isn’t described/decided.


There’s the same issue with Reeves’ Tokay Gecko, Gekko reevesii, being misidentified as a Tokay Gecko, Gekko gecko, something I raised as an issue a while back, but that didn’t get much traction, and has a lot more misidentifications.

Really, there isn’t much you can do except go through and make the corrections yourself and hope that other identifiers spot that and correct their mistake.

There are lots of species where this sort of thing happens. At least in your instance it’s a small number of observations.


I would second @Marina_Gorbunova , it’s also a good idea to include rationale explaining the misidentification. I would just go to the each of the observations and copy+paste language that explains why it is not that species, state the bit of lit that was wrong, then another source clarifying or something to that extent.

As mentioned you could tag others but they could find 66 notifications annoying, so may want to message them instead.


66 observations is a lot, but as somebody who has worked on Phleum pratense, I look at that number and think, “Not so bad! Could be completed within a day!”* with a copy-paste explanation. I wish there were a bulk edit for this, but please do fix these observations. You’ll help a lot of people, many of whom don’t even know there’s a problem.

  • assuming you have nothing else going on in your life – most people might take longer, due to the interruptions real life can cause in one’s internet time.

I regularly encounter misidentifications on the order of hundreds, if not thousands, of observations for various similar-looking terrestrial invertebrates. Obviously I cannot correct them all (at once anyway), but with 66 observations, especially if tag-teaming it with a friend, I imagine it would not be too time-intensive to correct them.



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Considering that taxonomy seems to be mostly about publishing papers disagreeing with other taxonomists, I’m not sure the words “misidentification” or “correct” even mean anything.


I understand it must be horribly annoying for laymen. But this is how science works: new information leads to change in knowledge, not without a good amount of discussing and throwing papers around. But since this is no religious belief or a political dogma, scientists can only choose the hard way of finding out what is going on …
The terms “correct” or “misidentification” mean a lot more nowadays than a hundred years ago, and it will mean even more in hundred years from now. If we keep it up, that is …


it took about 2 hours to update the ID on these observations. but this doesn’t take into account the fact that I’ll have to follow up on all of these observations to see if the other users update their IDs. I’m sure this project is far from over.

for anyone who thinks that this is reasonable… that 66 observations is “not too much”… I wholeheartedly disagree. this is a problem that will only get more troublesome as iNaturalist continues to accumulate observations. there needs to be a proper curatorial solution to instances like this.


There’s no current wiki for species misided because of old data, you can start one that would mirror
If you want to help with “too much”, check fungi, check mosses, with thousands of wrong ids that are piling for years and growing each day.

Thanks for fixing them! It is frustrating to have to do these “housekeeping” tasks. I view is as just a reality. The great majority of identifications and corrections are done by us volunteers, and the only ones among us who will do it are those who have noticed a problem and care enough to fix it.

(Off to work on out-of-range Vicia cracca. Hard to explain to people that it doesn’t grow here when the map is full of it. And thanks to @csledge for writing a useful guide to its identification: )


Anaxeton has been divided into arborescens North of my Fish Hoek gap, and laeve to the South of us. No idea how many there were when botaneek started, but when he tagged me for a few where I was wrong … I joined in with the housekeeping and my copypasta from his knowledge. I was worried that CNC would tip up all that hard work.

But the good news is that chewing away at sorting out misIDs, with copypasta to explain why, does ripple out to keep the problem under control.

(Going to get back to those distribution maps after our loadshedding. I see one ‘wild’ obs in South America) Sorted.


The trick is education. If the taxon is important to you, create a simple ID guide (post it as a Journal post or Google Slide) and paste the link as you identify them. With luck, the information you provide will spread and other folks will start providing correct IDs and fixing incorrect IDs. See some examples of guides that I’ve created here on my profile. Notice that for most of the taxa that I focus on, I’ve got a link to and ID guide and a link to the ID modal. This makes it easy for me to do IDs and copy that link for pasting.

It sounds like you expect every person using iNat to become an infallible taxonomic expert. I think that’s asking waaaay too much!

And 66 misidentifications is indeed nothing to fume about. I’ve spent months correcting misidentifications (hundreds of observations) of several taxa…but I also provided ID information and now others are making correct IDs. It’s something that I actually enjoy and provides me with a sense of accomplishment and value. Never lose sight that iNat is an educational platform first and foremost.


Far from it. I expect nothing from my fellow users, particularly on the subject of the species limits of unstudied marine invertebrates.

Rather, I wish to highlight how unreasonable it is to expect the few “experts” on this site to do this sort of tedious housekeeping, instead of supplying a more practical means to curate observations. The democratic ethos that the iNaturalist braintrust has adopted is in many ways antithetical to the long-term growth of this community. How many experts are going to want to spend the hours/days/weeks it might take to curate a taxon, only to discover that their efforts don’t even fully fix the problem when another user fails to update their ID. There are plenty of taxa on here that don’t have a dedicated group of regular knowledgeable contributors at the ready to collaborate on curation. My area of expertise, anthozoans, is one prime example.


Ah, so you’re recommending that the approach be to prevent others from making identifications until a person with expertise is identified–and then have them do all the identifications. I’m not sure that would work well at a global scale. But it’s been discussed a lot elsewhere. For a restricted taxonomic group at a restricted geographic scale, I think that approach has merit. But implementing it at the scale of all life globally–I just don’t see how that can be done on a practical level.

I think you’re viewing it from an angle different from the actual goal of iNat. The goal is to facilitate engagement, not to have everything correctly identified. Those goals need different strategies. If you’ll take on the role of an educator–with the iNat vision and mission in mind–rather than a curator, I think you’ll be happier with the “democratic” approach with IDs.


I see your frustration. It is hard to come to a solution for this so I won’t really speculate. Technically speaking I am not sure that it would be ethical for anything but the user making the initial misidentification to correct it (ideally), or having enough other identifiers to overrule the misidentifications.

The users are adding identifications in alignment with how they are supposed to which is to provide an ID only when they are positive the ID is correct, which they think it is because a resource happens to be wrong. I see the desire to have their observations changed, but that also overrules the democratic process of creating a research grade observation. I think in these instances we do what we can, but one thing to mention is that if the resource used is a widely-used identification resource anyone using iNat/GBIF data should be someone with historical knowledge of the organism and be aware that these data may not be completely accurate. Generally speaking for most things (besides birds where I think people ID things to boost their ID numbers/rank on the leaderboards) it doesn’t take too many IDs to kick an observation back to non-RG (genus or higher).


Yes. We are the solution! It is the Don Quixote/Sisyphus side of iNat: I keep correcting, people keep posting, I go on correcting, people go on posting … But I wouldn’t want an algorithm to take over, since I have seen the weird stuff the autosuggest function provides at times. As for your 66 observations … you have to look at every specimen anyway to be sure it actually needs curation. Or would you rather have an AI check them? I wouldn’t, at least not in this decade anyway.
I admit it is a lot of work. We should get paid for this … ;)
In that sense: thank you from the bottom of my heart for IDing all my anthozoan observations. People like you are an inspiration for people like me to keep it up.


Reading these comments, I wonder how much these misID situations has been studied. Cit. Sci. projects like eBird have extensive study on major biases such as miscounts, but one that is somewhat unique to iNat is the identification bias. I’ve noticed several examples of lots of identifications of one species but none of other species in the same genus, that may be caused by or at least lead to more false identifications due to a lack of anything to compare with.


I’ve noticed this happens a lot when one of the species in a genus has a broad-sounding common name and the others do not. For instance, I’ve been identifying all the manroot (Marah) observations recently, and it’s absolutely rife with mis-IDs. There’s 8 species, and most of them get identified as “california man root” because it’s a manroot and it’s in California, right? A close second is “Coastal man root” for all the ones near the beach, nevermind that there’s 3 species that can occur in the coastal areas. But there are virtually no misapplied IDs of “Taw man-root”.

And don’t even get me started on “california wild rose,” ugh.


Thank you for correcting the mistakes!
There was a suggestion to tag other actiniaria experts or local experts to those observations by comments, but I personally think it is the best to post the link to the wrongly identified observations in your Journal with a description of the difference between the wrongly identified one and the correct one, tagging a lot of people who might be able to help out.

This is useful because you can simply copy and paste the link to your journal when the misidentification of the species happens again, and also others can read your journal to know about it, and also people can have a good discussion in the comment section of the journal.

I recently started identifying Californian marine molluscs with tons of wrong IDs, and this way of correcting IDs has been working pretty well.