I have noted some issues with species complexes, which I describe below. Some examples of species complexes to test this behaviour:
- Complex Dasysyrphus intrudens
- Complex Hyla versicolor
- Complex Pantherophis alleghaniensis
- Complex Laphria canis
ISSUE #1: Species complexes do not come up if you search for them from the search box. If you type in the species that the complex is named after, the species complex does come up, but not if you type in the full name of the complex. For example, “Complex Dasysyrphus intrudens” will come up if you do a search for “Dasysyrphus intrudens”, but not if you search for “Complex Dasysyrphus intrudens”.
ISSUE #2: Species complexes do not come up as a suggestion if you start typing in the name in the “Suggest an Identification” box. If you start typing in “Dasysyrphus intrudens”, then "“Dasysyrphus intrudens” will come up as a suggestion, but not “Complex Dasysyrphus intrudens”. If you start typing in “Complex Dasysyrphus intrudens”, then no suggestions come up.
Even if Issue #2 is corrected, it is still going to create problems. It seems unlikely that anyone would start typing in “Complex Dasysyrphus intrudens” for a suggested ID, unless they already know that was what the taxon was called on iNaturalist. People will start by typing in the species name “Dasysyrphus intrudens”, either because they do not know that a species complex designation is available or desirable, or because they are thinking about a much more natural wording of “Dasysyrphus intrudens complex” or the “Dasysyrphus intrudens species complex”. So, it seems like the species complex taxa should be renamed to have “complex” at the end of the name. The current naming strategy also prevents the species complexes from being alphabetized properly in the taxonomy lists.
If the species that the species complex is named after is left as a valid taxon, then observations can end up getting randomly identified as either the species complex or the original species, depending on whether or not the original identifier was aware of the existence of the species complex taxon. It is very undesirable to have the same taxon being recorded under two different names, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to avoid this other than having someone continually monitoring each taxa and manually correcting it. Correcting the issues described above will help with this problem, because at least the species complex taxon won’t be hidden. But it seems like there should be some flag on the original species name, so that potential identifiers know that they should stay at the species complex level, unless the necessary evidence is available to go to the species level.