Initial Identification

I do not understand why the originally suggested identification is automatically changed if someone suggests an alternative identification.

And should not the original identification be retained as a permanent part of the record in the interest of education/reduction of future errors?

The 1st identification is not automatically changed, it is only changed if the user decides to change their initial identification. The overall ID can change as users give differing IDs.


Perhaps you are talking about a “placeholder” ID? That unfortunately gets over-written as soon as someone IDs the observation. Most identifiers will copy that place-holder in as a comment when they add the ID, but not everyone does.

If you want your original thought to stay there, it is better to add it to the “Details” field, or as a comment, rather than using it as a placeholder ID.


The record of a “true” ID remains intact regardless. When someone disagrees with the originally suggested ID, the overall observation ID reverts to the lowest common taxon until a 3/4 consensus is reached for a lower taxon.

In practice, placeholder IDs are different from true IDs, though the distinction is often not readily apparent to new users. Others have expressed concern over misplaced placeholders (see Placeholder text and IDing Unknowns).

When possible, add a true ID instead of adding a placeholder. When a placeholder is needed, @Vireya suggestion is the best for the time being (until if/when the treatment of placeholders is changed).


Thanks, swampster.

That is what happens, but why shouldn’t the initial suggested ID remain until “proven wrong” by a 3/ consensus? Seems that reverting to the lowest common taxon would actually slow down the reaching of consensus. Won’t more people respond to a species ID (Goatweed Leafwing butterrfly) than to the lower common taxon (Butterflies and Moths)? It seems to me that a species ID would generate the most activity. What am I missing here?

This seems to represent a “wrong until proven right” policy instead of a “right until proven wrong” one.

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On iNat, everyone gets one vote and the observer’s vote (or alternatively the first vote) is not weighted any higher than any subsequent votes. Additionally, having observations with IDs at a lower taxon when there is no consensus would make them more susceptible to serial agree-ers.

That being said, if it is your own observation, you are allowed to reject the community taxon, which will display your ID as the observation ID. Though, research grade will still only be achieved with a 3/4ths consensus. I personally discourage this action except for in rare circumstances.

There are many threads debating the ability to reject the community taxon. Off the top of my head, I will link one: Needs ID but has opted out of Community Taxon

In general, I would encourage other courses of action if you feel someone has made an incorrect ID on one of your observations, like tagging some of the top identifiers for the taxon.


What is a placeholder ID?

If you add an ID when uploading an observation and don’t link it to an iNat taxon, the text you type will be added as a placeholder. Often things like non-taxon identifiers will show up here (e.g., “catepillar”) or typos. But in rarer cases, iNat may not recognize a taxon that is recognized elsewhere (e.g., Buteo jamaicensis abieticola). Additionally, sometimes people add notes rather than an ID, which can then disappear when others add a “true” ID which is why it is better to put this info in the comments.


Does this happen often? If so, you may be over-specifying your initial ID.

Also, I think you’re coming at this from a strict observer’s point of view. Swap roles and become an identifier for awhile. It will help you come to grips with the entire process.


Hi @naturallywade41 and welcome to the iNaturalist forum. Did you get a chance to read iNat’s help page on the identification process? That helps explain how the “Community ID” on iNat reflects the lowest level taxon that has more than two-thirds support from identifiers (including you).

Your ID is still there, even if another identifier disagrees with you. That scenario tends to be a good opportunity for people (you or the other identifier) to learn more about how to distinguish particular species. Try adding a comment explaining why you think the organism is the species in your ID, or asking what other people see that makes them think it’s something else.


Welcome to the iNat forum!

It would be helpful here to know whether you are referring to the “placeholder” text that other folks described above, or to an actual taxon ID that you entered when the observation was created. They are two different things, and they respond differently when other people add IDs. Would you be willing to give us a link to one of the observations you are concerned about, so that we can make sure we are all talking about the same thing?

If you did enter an initial taxon ID (not just placeholder text), that is always retained as part of the permanent record unless you later delete it. Even if you withdraw or change your ID later (or if iNat changes it due to updated taxonomy), the record of it is still there on the activity feed for the observation.


It is possible to find the observation, based on @naturallywade41’s user name and the species of moth he mentioned further up. His original ID remains in place, marked as a maverick, and 4 people have disagreed with him to either family or species level.

Sorry I complicated the issue by mentioning placeholders!


Thank you for the explanation!


Essentially, the current ID displayed on the observation is the “this got the most votes” ID. Any IDs that didn’t win the votes are still there, if you look at the activity list on the observation itself, they just don’t display on the rest of it. Otherwise you’d end up with a really confusing title, containing multiple species.

The reason it’s that way is in case the original ID is wrong. I’ve certainly had a few birds where I was fairly sure it was one thing, and then three people promptly pointed out that, nope, it was something else. Happens a lot with warblers.

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