Genus species + species?

I’m still learning about binomial nomenclature rules, but what confuses me is some observations ID’s that suggest the same genus with the same species, but an additional species name that is a duplicate. Is this meant to dictate subspecies? I have attached an example.

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Correct - the second “tympanum” in this case indicates the subspecies.


At least in zoology, there is the Code article -

When a species is considered to contain subspecies, the subspecies that contains the name-bearing type of the nominal species is denoted by the same species-group name as the species, with the same author and date [Art. 46.1]; this subspecies is termed the nominotypical subspecies.


Technically there should not be duplication of common names as you see here, so that also adds to the confusion.

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That’s… very interesting.

In my understanding, would this be a situation where a species has diverge away far enough in locality to consider having split into two subspecies, but also at the same time the distance is too close have any big significant changes to consider giving it a unique subspecies name?

I read a little more. I think my initial understanding is wrong. So the nominotypical species gets the double name because… it’s the original described population?

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Should we flag the taxon when we see the same common name for species and subspecies? What is the expected solution? Adding “typical” or “common”, e.g. Typical Southern Water Skink?

Yeah these should be flagged, although it’s a little controversial. We shouldn’t come up with our own names, but it’s OK for certain taxa to not have common names. The trick is figuring out where the name is best applied. I think usually the species, but it’s obviously case dependent.


When describing a new subspecies (from a species that does not yet have described subspecies), the nominotypical subspecies remains the “default” subspecies (it does not need to be described separately). It is the taxon to which the nomenclatural type of the species belongs. It therefore has the same species rank name (as another proper name), and authorship of that name. This is a formal nomenclatural matter, unrelated to the objective similarity of these forms or their evolution.

For example, there is a fictional species Insectus mundus Linnaeus, 1768 with no subspecies described. If the fictional Dr. Smith describes the subspecies Insectus mundus americanus, there will be two subspecies:
Insectus mundus americanus Smith, 2024 (a new taxon with a new nomenclatural type and distinctive features) and
Insectus mundus mundus Linnaeus, 1768 (“everything that is Insectus mundus Linnaeus, 1768 and is not Insectus mundus americanus”).
No special description of Insectus mundus mundus Linnaeus, 1768 is needed.
This is approximately how it works.

The very concept of subspecies proposed by Ernst Mayr is not entirely unambiguous. I wrote about it on the forum earlier. But anyway, it is important to realize that taxonomy (division of living organisms into taxa) and nomenclature (rules for naming taxa) are not directly related. There are many alternative (rankless, numerological and so on) concepts of nomenclatures (almost not used practically). In this case, we are talking about the generally accepted binominal nomenclature, the rules of which are described in the Code.


Thank you all for these wonderful explanations. Now I gotta find something to ease this brain-workout.


No, don’t add anything to a name, please. If there is no common name specific to the subspecies, it shouldn’t have one on iNat.


“This plant shall remain nameless” seems a bit harsh to me! The “Common” name is usually the “Popular” name, the name “mere mortals” use.
Therefore I personally feel, that:

  • If the species has a popular name, but the subspecies does not, then it should “inherit” the popular name of the species. There is a way to differentiate the two species: With the Latin name.
    Mere mortals might not see the difference between those two subspecies, but still remember the common name of the species.

I think this is a good reason not to have subspecies inherit the common name from the species. Duplicate common names have a tendency to confuse those who aren’t as familiar with taxonomy. Even for those that are, duplicates are a recipe for misclicks. So this would create a bunch of situations where the subspecies is falsely getting attributed.

Instead, I think the “a member of…” text should link back to the species (for species that have a common name) rather than to some higher taxon. For example:

could say “Polistes major ssp. major a member of Horse’s Paper Wasp (Polistes major)” instead of linking all the way back to subfamily. There is an open feature request for this to be the case.