iNat data featured in a new study about sea anemones

The biogeographic data on iNaturalist helped to reveal a taxonomic discrepancy amongst the Stichodactyla carpet anemones. These are some of the largest and most colorful sea anemones on Indo-Pacific coral reefs and are best known for hosting clownfishes, but their taxonomy hasn’t seen much attention in 40 years.

Stichodactyla gigantea has traditionally been considered a widespread species in this region, but the 100+ observations show that the anemone known by this name is actually limited to the Andaman-West Pacific. The discrepancy is that S. gigantea was described in the 18th century from the Red Sea, and so that name most likely refers to a different member of this genus, which has been known as S. haddoni.

The study by Bennett-Smith et al 2021 also compared the iNaturalist dataset to one from OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System) and found it to be far more accurate. That OBIS dataset is populated largely from museum collections and published checklists, which one would assume is more authoritative than a community project like iNaturalist… but apparently not. At least, not for this particular taxon.


Brilliant! I also added the paper to our wiki list here:


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