Glitch with "Search external name providers"?

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Hi. I’m a volunteer curator. In last days i noticed some flag requests to ‘add missing taxa’ from the iNat taxonomy which any user should be able to import themselves from external providers.

Step 1: Under a new observation, when suggesting an identification, there can be a dropdown option of “Search external name providers”.

Step 2: Inserted a name not present on the iNat taxonomy, but is present in e.g. CoL. → BUT, not then recognised as importable name

Do you have a specific example of one of these names?


One case in a currently open flag [ref: 685692] for Genus Abyssocladia. These are sponges.
I directly added the requested species Abyssocladia koltuni, but (as in some other cases, again) found that it did not come up as suggestion with the dropdown “Search external (etc etc)“. If so, the user could have done themselves. That particular species name is now on, but others of that same sponge genus (also present in Catalog of life) still do not show up on “Search external name providers”, e.g. Abyssocladia annae, Abyssocladia antarctica.
However, i tried a couple of other cases from different sponge genera, and from my system those other names were in contrast recognised by that “Search external (etc etc)”, hence it’s not that it’s entirely “broken” at my end - it’s some but not others.

Another case in a now closed flag [ref: 685182] for Genus Syberna. This is an insect: true bug. Again i added the taxon/taxa, but here the response of user seems to indicate they were not able to add themselves, and nor was i that same way.

There’s a couple more cases from last week, i was starting to fear a trend.

iNaturalist uses CoL 2012, so something like Abyssocladia annae, which appears to have been described in 2020, would not be in it.

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Interesting - unexpected. Inline with that, another case i just looked at (something in Insecta: Diptera) was a name change from a paper in 2018, so that would explain why the recombination is not retrievable for that also.

I get that some delay for exchanges amongst databases can be desirable as taxonomy, especially at the “cutting edge” as many taxa suddenly go through rapid flux with multiple contradicting views. Hence, e.g. that seem to me why some plant databases in particular seem to often take their time! However, that said, Catalog of Life has gone though some big changes in the 12 years since 2012 - it still has many issues and gaps, but it’s vastly more comprehensive and ‘corrected’ for errors than the versions from 12 years ago. Well, all said, it sounds reasonable the source of what i’m seeing can be down to that - hence using informatics slang “this issue is a feature not a bug” and this report can be closed.

But, please, as CoL has gone though multiple iterations and updates since then and is increasingly being seen as THE name provider for synthesis of taxonomy, i’m shocked that is iNaturalist using a version that’s 12 years old!

We certainly need a global Catalogue of Life, but I think CoL, as a product, still falls short of that goal.

Here’s an interesting read on the status of CoL …

The aspirations are great, but the reality less so.

In my group, the fungi, the data currently provided to CoL are poor and incomplete. For larger fungi at least then iNat itself is the best source of taxonomic opinion, although unfortunately that is still a minority of all fungal species.

The reason iNat has become the de-facto global checklist for larger fungi (in my opinion) is because the content is community-driven. That is not true for many sectors of CoL where too few people are tackling very large groups, often without testing regional/global consensus opinions, without the resource to maintain the content, and without good tools to support them.

Until these fundamental issues are resolved across all organism groups then CoL will continue to fall short. From a fungal perspective my preference is for the API import from CoL to be removed rather than updated. However, I guess for many groups it would serve a useful purpose

If I remember correctly, we decided a few years ago to stick with the old CoL because of alga taxonomy - either it had it or it didn’t have it, and for whatever reason the 2012 was deemed preferable. I wouldn’t doubt it’s time to reevaluate, but I think that’s beyond the scope of this bug report, so I’m going to close it. Maybe something for a curator to bring up in Curators?