Identifications that include a subspecies ignored in observation ID

I noticed that when I add an identification to an observation that stands at a higher level (genus, subfamily, family or higher) it will not update the ID at all when my identification includes a subspecies. Here is an example:

Step 1: Someone identified a wasp as genus Polistes. The observation ID is updated automatically to “Polistes”.

Step 2, option a: Someone adds an identification to the subspecies level: Polistes major castaneicolor. The observation ID does not change and remains at “Polistes”.

Step 2, option b: Someone adds an identification to the species level: Polistes major. The observation ID is automatically updated to “Polistes major”.

This strikes me as inconsistent and illogical. Even with scientific disagreement about the justification of subspecies in general the observation ID should at least be updated to the species level and not be completely ignored by the system. I have tried this out with different species/subspecies examples and on many different observations, and I always get the same result.

I am not looking to start a discussion about subspecies. I should mention, though, that in my area of taxonomic expertise (aculeate Hymenoptera, where subspecies are not used very much) there are often good species hiding underneath subspecies names. I therefore support the subspecies functionality in iNat. It is an important research tool, and helps to keep things apart that deserve further study. It can also help to track intraspecific variation of a primarily geographic nature, which can be relevant from a variety of perspectives.

I think the problem that is described above is a true bug and should be fixed. I am looking forward to your thoughts.

Hi @matthias22, welcome to the forum and thanks for your report.

The staff actually intentionally designed subspecies IDs to work this way, and have acknowledged that it is not a perfect solution. There’s an open feature request where you can continue the discussion:


Thanks, @bouteloua! I did not see that thread.

I think this could be solved computationally without being overly complicated:

  1. If the designation “research grade” is restricted to the species level as the lowest possible taxonomic level the subspecies could simply be ignored when calculating whether an observation is research grade or not. In the definition of terms it would have to be made clear that the designation “research grade” is only applicable to the species level (or higher), and that any subspecies identifications are an independent, additional piece of information.

  2. The community ID at the subspecies level can then be computed independent from research level calculations. It can still be done based on the same rules but it would be independent, and it would only take place when the observation ID has reached the species level (regardless of research grade or not). A subspecies ID can then be added to the observation ID unless it is contradicted by one third or more of subspecies IDs that apply to this species (subspecies IDs pertaining to other species can be ignored if there are any in the previous determination history).

In a nutshell: subspecies calculations are kept separate and research grade is a designation that applies to the species level as the lowest possible taxonomic rank. I hope this makes sense.

I will also add this to the thread you cited. Thanks again!