Let's Talk Annotations

I know that sporophyte/gametophyte annotations for ferns/bryophytes/etc. has been suggested several times already, and I agree that that would be an amazing addition!

I’d also like to make a case for adding them for macroalgae, since a good chunk (if not the majority) of seaweeds have sporophyte and gametophyte individuals that live completely independently of each other. The gametophytes/sporophyte life stages of algae often have very different morphologies, ecologies, habitats, and seasonality, so being able to label them using annotations would be extremely useful metadata. Plus, since algal sporophytes don’t really have a sex, the current male/female/can’t be determined isn’t appropriate unless you know you have a gametophyte, and can figure out the sex of that gametophyte. If you have a sporophyte, male/female/can’t be determined can never apply - it can be determined, it’s just not male or female.

I think there are enough common seaweeds with easily-distinguishable gametophytes and sporophytes that it wouldn’t be too niche of an application (e.g. all kelps, turkish towel/Chondracanthus, turkish washcloth/Mastocarpus, false kelp/Petalonia, etc.). Plus, for people with a little more experience, there are lots more with reproductive structures that can be seen (and photographed) with a decent field lens or magnifying glass.

Overall I think it would be really beneficial to have, and more appropriate for most algae than the current annotation options.


No doubt it would be really useful to sort iNat plant observations into age classes, similar to animals. However, it’s hard to see how it could successfully be implemented across taxonomies - what constitutes a seedling for tree species with potential life spans measured in centuries, versus annual plants that complete their life cycles in a few weeks? I’m not aware of a commonly used criteria that applies to all plants - it’s generally something I’ve had to work to define on a species-by-species basis when doing field studies.


For seedlings - I was thinking of vegetation rehab projects.
Seedlings coming up. What are they?
If we could annotate as seedling - that would provide information.
Especially for plants that have juvenile leaves.

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I am still struggling with default option of Sex on any plant observation.
Yesterday a man new to iNat carefully marked his plant … Male.
Could we not restrict that option to choose male or female to plants which actually have male or female on separate plants?

Leucadendron is a plant I see on every hike. For that it is useful information.

For most plants both or cannot be determined applies.

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I think the “Evidence of Presence” annotation could be updated to included structures made by organisms. Think bird’s nests, beaver dams, ant hills, fox dens, etc. This element is not represented in the annotations at all.

Maybe shadows should have their own annotation in “Evidence of Presence” too.

There also no annotations for fungi.

That was a request a while ago but unless we could knock out entire genera or families or other large taxonomic groups, I don’t think it would be workable to granularly choose which taxa get a Sex annotation option.

It can be irritating to see someone falsely annotate a plant like that, but I also do see what any major harm it does?

See discussion here.

Fungi now have the Gall option for Evidence of Presence.


Apologies if this has been brought up before - I couldn’t find it by searching. Could the “Alive or dead” annotation be expanded to include all taxa? Right now it’s only restricted to animals, and I can’t see a good reason as to why that is.

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Plants won’t get that annotation because people will confuse dried parts with actually dead plants.

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Exactly, and also plant parts like fruit capsules - the mother plant tissue might be dead with just the seeds alive, but those would be a different individual than the surrounding tissue. So it would create unnecessary confusion without providing too much value.
Also, I would not be comfortable to decide whether a bracket fungus is alive or dead

There may be observation fields for more specific categories


For me - I don’t know how to explain to a newbie. So I move on. And the newbie wanders off?

For the newbie - those people on iNat are deranged. They want to know my sex for every obs I post?! Unique among social media, unless dating app?

Maybe the logic of applying the sex annotation for plants would be more effective if it was activated for the slice it does apply to? It is seldom used which is why I notice when it is wrong, again.

I think this summarizes the current requests:

term taxa values multiple allowed? issues
cone phenology conifers seed cones, pollen cones, no cones yes should older seed cones be distinguished from younger ones in some way? incomplete taxon list?
leaf phenology angiosperms, ? leaf buds, leaves, no leaves, ? yes incomplete taxon list, incomplete value list
life stage angiosperms, ? seed, seedling/young/immature, adult/mature, unknown/not recorded, ? no incomplete taxon list, incomplete value list
sex remove hermaphroditic plants, also remove monoecious plants? hermaphroditism/monoecy spread throughout plant clades, simplified taxon list needed
life stage Marchantiophyta, Anthocerotophyta, Bryophyta, Lycopodiopsida, and Polypodiopsida, macroalgae gametophyte, sporophyte yes ?
life stage birds add immature to existing set of values ?
eusocial role Formicidae, Apis, Bombus, Meliponini, Crabronidae, Vespidae, Termitoidae queen/fertile female, fertile male, worker/soldier no taxon list complete? value list complete?
life stage all add cannot be determined ?
life stage Animalia move egg up to level Animalia ?
life stage Labridae, Scaridae egg, larva, juvenile, initial, terminal, transitional, adult no taxon list complete? value list complete?
life stage Insecta move larva up to Class Insecta ?
evidence Insecta add leaf mine ?

If you’d really like to see any particular request happen, the issues listed need to be addressed.
Note: this is a wiki, you can edit the table.


Do they experience differential sexual selection, though?

Thanks for compiling this table! One question on terminology: The sporophyte/gametophyte annotations for plants would technically be life cycle stage, rather than life stage, since those are separate generations/plants and not different developmental stages of the same individual. I realize though that it might be easier to use life stage as a term for the website since it’s shorter and already in use. Does anyone have thoughts on that?

Not sure about including “Macroalgae” for that annotation. That is a pretty mixed group and probably needs some narrowing down. Algae are all over the place with their life cycles (we use them in class as examples for all types of life cycles to illustrate gametic, sporic, and zygotic meiosis) and some (e.g. Fucus, charophytes) don’t have sporophytes/gametophytes.


Would nest be included to fit into this table, or is it categorized differently or only discussed in a separate forum topic? Re: evidence of presence.

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“Nest” was one of the suggestions in the New Annotation: Evidence of Presence topic. If someone wants to synthesize all suggestions from that topic into the table or make a new one, I think that would be reasonable, but the table format is too confusing for me to edit.

Would be great if we could have larvae annotation possible at higher levels than we have at present also.

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That’s why I wanted to have the taxa ‘holometabola’ added - but due to the millions of observations, and more than 100,000 species affected, this is too big of a task.
So, you are suggesting to have both ‘larva’ and ‘nymph’ as an option for insects on level ‘pterygota’?


Even higher, at level of class I think would make sense.
( I don’t understand the reason why this isn’t already in place though - is there a reason not to have this? )

just a note that I moved a few posts from the Evidence of Presence discussion, and then added to the table above

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I’m only seeing the life stages ‘egg’ and ‘adult’ for the insect (Chinese Mantis) I recently added. Am i missing something? Because having nymph, larva, and pupa would be helpful.