Is presenting genomic data acceptable for IDs and Curation?

I know that I have made a topic similar to this called How detailed should an explanation be for an identification of an observation?, but when I created How do I verify an observation of something that cannot be independently verified?, it got me thinking about genomic data.

Nowadays, new species are identified not solely by morphological features, but also by acoustics and genomic data. One common method is barcoding specimens via the use of sequences from Cytochrome Oxidase, Subunit 1, or COI for short. For those who have forgotten Biochemistry, Cytochrome Oxidase is fourth complex in the Electron Transport Chain (ETC), which is important for producing the electrochemical gradient that drives ATP production. ATP, of course, is the main molecule of energy used by “living” things (viruses are debated as to whether they are considered “alive” or not). COI barcoding is used by for BOLD Systems to make a catalog of living things.

While specimens make look visually similar, and this is a problem for cryptic species, they usually differ by a specified amount in their DNA. For instance, Biston betularia congnataria and Biston betularia betularia differ in COI sequences by approximately 1.3%. However, while Biston betularia alexandrina may appear to be very similar to the nominate subspecies in Europe, it has a difference of more than 2% in COI sequence compared to the nearest species, Biston strataria. This is more than the differences of COI in the aformentioned subspecies (The Geometrid Moths of Europe: Ennominae II (Boarmiini, Gnophini, Additions to Previous Volumes) · Volume 6, Part 1)!

Is presenting genomic data acceptable for IDs? Also, is it valid for changing the curation of a subspecies? According to an email from @michaelpirrello, I may want to change the curation for Biston betularia alexandrina. Should I do it?

It’s not really clear what you mean by ‘changing the curation’ of a species. Are you talking about removing the species from the database via merging it ?


Yes. That is what I meant. Since the post was long, I did not want to do something that would accidentally delete the entire post.

i see people including dna barcodes in observation fields (ex., and here are all observation fields with DNA in the name:✓&q=dna&commit=Search), but i’m not sure if these are being used for identification in iNaturalist or how they are being used in general.

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You can add DNA info as a field, as @pisum suggests, but iNaturalist only recognizes sounds and images as “evidence” when it comes to the data quality grade of an observation. So if you post an observation and only include DNA information without any sounds or images, the observation will be labeled “casual”.


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