Include author citations for taxa

FWIW, Wikidata is preeeeeetty bad about actually storing the taxon author qualifier of taxon name (it is present for Quercus robur but missing on the first two taxa I checked from my dashboard, Cecropis daurica and Evenus regalis). So this might be one thing that’s not ideal to delegate to them, unless we’re planning to just fix it on their side.

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Ah, I think it’s because I’m usually looking at plants, as most plants do have the author listed on Wikidata. There must have been an import from IPNI at some point. I still don’t think it should the effort to link up taxa to their authors should be duplicated on iNaturalist and Wikidata.

I expect if they were to be shown on observation pages, it would make most sense to actually input and store the data as part of the taxon-level record, and pull from there to display on observations and any other pages.

That said, I think it would add a lot of clutter to most other pages where taxon names are displayed. Especially on the phone apps. I think those who need to know Author and year information can also figure out how to look it up on the taxon page.

That said, personally I don’t think iNaturalist curators need to be in the business of populating and maintaining complete authorship data for millions of taxa. That is already done by other dedicated databases and web sites, though admittedly not evenly for all taxonomic groups. If we need to display the data at all, I would rather find a way to pull it in from Wikidata or other appropriate sites, and do the data maintenance on those sites when needed.

The only time I could see a need to store such data within iNaturalist is when they help clarify which concept of an ambiguous taxon name is being used on the site. I would hope that the default is always the earliest legitimate homonym, and any differences in circumscription can be documented using the existing Taxon Framework Relationship functionality in iNaturalist.


I was trying to find info about the authorships of the scientific names provided by iNaturalist, so I can include them in reports of my observations.
So when I found this topic today I was pretty surprised.
Should I understand that iNaturalist database structure does not contain authorships for “scientific names” anywhere at all?

Where do all the proposed names (available when I try to “select one name”) come from?
I understand iNaturalist must be getting them from sources which do provide an authorship, and also a context about the original source.
I think it would be a mistake to remove access to that information, so I am probably just not being smart enough to find it. Is this documented anywhere?

Of course I am not saying authorships must be visible in user interfaces (I agree that could be annoying, also for me).
But they must be accessible somehow (if a user wants to get that info it must be possible).

Concerning all “research grade observations” … are they attached to taxon names with no authorship at all and published to GBIF that way?


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No, iNat doesn’t store autorships, names come from several databases and by curators manually.

Thanks @fffffffff

But how can users know about the original database source used for a given name? Can that be accessed through the API?

If the source of a name is unknown, using it for connecting observations sounds pretty risky (it may have been used for different taxon concepts in several identification keys, field guides or any kind of scientific publications all around the world).

Unless the name source is available somewhere, so the name usage becames less ambiguous.

If you click on “Taxonomy Details” on the Taxonomy tab for a species, you should be able to see where it has come from. “Taxon Schemes” shows other sources that also recognise the taxon


Not sure that iNat is the proper place to include author/year of original description, although I admit it would be nice to see on the taxon page. As others have said, there are other sources on the Web such as for that information. Note also that the author/year citation is not always straightforward. unambiguous, and agreed-upon by all users especially for many old taxa. I’m still seeing revised author/year citations for some long-recognized vertebrate taxa based on new interpretations of how the original description was published,

Thanks @deboas : “Taxonomy details” is what I was looking for.
It also contains links to some deeper explanations kindly provided by @loarie

I would like to comment some examples (which I found rightaway, so I bet all of these situations must be frequent):

Anyway, this is the kind of informative page I was looking for.
Is it possible to access the taxonomy details using iNaturalist api? (I am trying to automate the process of creating a report of my observations, but including scientific names which I should grab from the linked source databases).

Maybe @loarie or @kueda can tell us a bit more? (this thread is also somehow related but I can’t post there anymore).

Thanks a lot for your help

Knowing the source of a name in iNat has some value but it is limited to checking the name is correctly spelt and published under a nomenclatural code. I get the impression you believe that authorship tells you something about taxon concepts? The authorship of a name is purely nomenclatural information. Taxonomic opinion on the correct name is not connected to the authorship, and iNat does not track sources of taxonomic opinion. Nomenclature & taxonomy are quite different topics.

The authorship of a name tells you who formally published a nomenclatural novelty under a particular nomenclatural code. Its practical use is to distinguish homonyms, i.e. where two different authors published the same name. Within a nomenclatural code one of those names will be validly published and the rest will be invalid (with different terminology here between ICZN and ICN). In the context of iNat it is also useful for distinguishing ambiregnal homonyms, i.e. the same name for quite different organisms validly published under different codes.

In normal use, say publishing lists of taxa, the authorship should not be relevant and I would not include it. In iNat the issue, as raised by Tony, is linked to the relatively small number of cases that involve homonyms. I think introducing authorship for all names in iNat would be a mistake. Intra-code and ambiregnal homonyms that impact on identification are usually fairly easy to spot and resolve.


Thanks for your comments @cooperj but you got the wrong idea.
I arrived this thread searching for info about names’ authorships, yes. But I did/do not suggest introducing authorships in iNat names.
Like everyone else, I do prefer not having authorships in the interface.

My comments were just about having access to the sources where iNat (curators) grabbed each name from.

I think I’d rather open a new topic about this.
Thanks a lot for your help.

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Distinguishing the authority of a scientific name is absolutely essential for many people, because a binomial without authority is often ambiguous, and sometimes greatly so. I work with plants and it can be a nightmare without the authority showing. Many parts of the world are still using older flora so there will often be a larger pool of different plants using the same name than you might expect and a person may quite unaware choose and pick the wrong species because it had the same latin name (but different authority).
The internal taxon table does need to be internally stored with authority, and there does need to be an option under settings to display it for those who want it. If there’s any difficulty with achieving that then at least there needs to be a manual authority box with each observation/id comment where you can just type it, and when the site taxonomy is upgraded, such records/comments should then contain a record of the latin+authority originally entered…


There better be some controlled vocabulary (e.g. a drop-down list of authors and their abbreviation) to allow people to chose the author name without risking a manual mess - should we enter “Willd.” or “Willdenow, C. L. von” or “(Willd.)” or “(Willdenow, C. L. von)” ?
Most people would leave it empty anyway, defaulting to the (hidden) authorship from the (particular, arbitrarily-chosen) taxonomic framework of reference used by iNat - which should perhaps be more easily traceable.

For plants it’s POWO. Click About, then find POWO and click.

I know, however it is not made obvious on the ‘About’ page.

That is why I made a post to whine about it, and changes were made.
Which I appreciate.

For a free text authority option it’s ideal if there’s a bit of uniformity but fundamentally uniformity isn’t required as I’d see it more as an entry so anyone doing research can discriminate what the person’s observation represents if they find they need to, where the observer felt there was a need to enter it.

Did I perhaps add some confusion here?
I meant having the authors name as a field on the taxon page: not something visible to ordinary users, but for use by curators, so that they can quickly see if there is some confusion.
It is not needed in 99% of cases, but where it is needed there needs to be some way of accessing it.
And if particular curators wish to fill it in for all members of their group, then great - they are welcome to.

We discussed this request and won’t be moving forward with it. Checking ancestry or checking other resources like POWO can be used for instances of potential confusion, and we feel the time and resources spent on implementing the proposed functionality outweight the benefits.


Thanks: I can understand and agree with this decision.

However, instances like this will not be obvious to the curators, not without some additional support and input from taxonomists and specialists.
Here is an instance that was a major muddle for decades:
As a result the trade name for cut flowers is still “Salignum” for Leucadendron xanthoconus and “Adscendens” for Leucadendron salignum almost 40 years after the matter was technically resolved.
So long as curators are aware of these sorts of problems and do not try to overfix the situations.
But these are rare enough not to require additional functionality.

Would a comments tab and page on the taxon page not cater for these (and other) situations?