Identification down to a pair of species

Sometimes my process of identifying an object stops between genus and species. When I cannot see further necessary information from my photos I have to enter genus as taxon. Sometimes, however, I know more. An example: The cicadas Fieberiella florii and Fieberiella septentrionalis cannot be distinguished by photo, only by genital examination which I cannot (and will not) perform.

My question is: How can I show the species informations in iNat?

In (a German counterpart to we have the concept of “Artenpaar” which means “pair of species”. When I have IDed to genus Fieberiella I am offered
Fieberiella (as genus)
Fieberiella florii
Fieberiella septentrionalis
Fieberiella florii/septentrionalis
The last one is the Artenpaar, which word is added to Fieberiella florii/septentrionalis on other pages of the site. Since the genus Fieberiella contains up to 20 species I am not satisfied with the genus as the best ID.

Maybe this topic could also be a feature request?


I could be wrong, but one way that iNaturalist appears to be dealing with species that cannot be distinguished by photo (for example, they might only be distinguishable via genetic testing), is to wrap them in a complex. For example:


Yes, if taxonomically those close species form a complex it can be added to iNat taxonomy. Like Enoplognatha candy-striped spiders complex. You can add a flag to the genus.


Please add this to the feature request category, if not delete this and repost it in that category.

Yes, I would love this feature.


I think a species complex is something different, because F. florii and F. septentrionalis are two well established and distinguished species. I cannot distinguish between them because it cannot be done by photos and that is all I have. I do know it is exactly one of the two mentioned species and I would like to document this and have other people confirm that “ID”. It is clear that no research grade is possible and I wonder a little bit about research grade observations in areas where both species could occur.

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Well, same with Enoplognatha, as it goes with spiders you need ventral side to id them, and it is possible for a regular person. It is possible to have RG even with genus, surely with complex too.

The concept already exists on the site. Here is the documentation on their creation.

Besides the time required to enter them, the biggest issue to my mind is the 2nd point, researching and figuring out if the complex has ben documented in literature (with the side issue the site does not have curator capacity as it is to research and enter all the series, subsections etc documented in some place let alone for complexes)

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Yes, the iNat usage of “complex” is a little different than the more common taxonomic/phylogenetic usage. This usage often refers to situations where there is gene flow between recognized groups or the relationships within them are not entirely clear (like a ring species). The iNat “complex” also includes cases where the species are both phylogenetically distinct, but just can’t be easily identified based on photo evidence.

In the case of Hyla versicolor and Hyla chrysoscelis, these are both distinguishable by call and number of chromosomes, but not visually. In a large portion of the eastern US, the two species overlap. Some observations do include call recordings (which can allow ID to species), but in many/most observations from this area, it is only possible to say that it is one of the two species, which are sister to each other. iNat has a complex rank which allows for IDing to one of these two species.

If Fieberiella florii/septentrionalis are sister to each other and have a large area of geographic overlap, they would probably qualify for creation of a complex under iNat’s guidelines (though I have no expertise in these specific taxa). As @cmcheatle pointed out, there’s a fair amount of background work needed to justify creation of a complex rank for a given situation. If you can do some documenting of the situation in addressing the criteria, you could look for an iNat curator who works with this group and see if they can assist you in creating the complex or you could look into becoming a curator and then doing it yourself.

On a side note, it is possible to have a observation at genus level reach RG by ticking the “No, it’s as good as can be” box in the DQA if you’re 100% sure that no better ID is possible. This would also be the case if a complex were created though. Observations at the complex level will remain in the “Needs ID” pool unless someone ticks that box.


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