Limits on importing external taxa?

Hi all, hope this hasn’t been asked before…

I’m wondering if there is some sort of filter or block on adding particular internal taxa. the listed external source for the taxon framework covering most opisthokonts (which include almost all the taxa I attempt to add by name search, given that plant taxonomy is usually sourced from POWO here) is Catalogue of Life. however, many names fail to import from COL for reasons I cannot discern. are only certain types of names “permitted” to import?

I can be more specific with names that fail to import (“No results found”), but without any off the top of my head without going back to repeat the issue, I wanted to ask in a general way first. again, this has happened with various arthropods, fungi, etc. I know COL isn’t really a source of taxonomy, just an aggregator, and there are problems enough with importing their "accepted name"s, but there doesn’t always seem to be a good match between the names they list that are dubious and the names that won’t import to iNaturalist.

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My recollection is that iNat is hitting the 2012 COL, not the current one. Next time you have this issue, I would check the 2012 version and see if your name is there.

Are you using imports to add taxa to iNat?

yes, I often use imports to speed up the process of adding taxa / so I can skip the “New Taxon” form-filling and go straight to adding a taxonomic framework match.

wow, that may well be it. are there plans to change this (i.e. reference the current COL), or at least a forum post asking the same question somewhere? thanks for the suggestion, it does seem likely. I’ll check back and confirm when next adding a taxon.


To my knowledge there are no plans to change the COL link to the current edition.
The outdated link has been mentioned in passing a couple times on the forum, but I don’t think there’s any real public explanation here. My understanding (which may come partly from direct messages and partly from somewhere else, e.g. iNat proper, the old Google Group, github, etc.) is that starting with 2013, COL dropped Algaebase from its records, at the request of the people maintaining Algaebase. So iNat kept COL 2012 in order to keep accessing alga taxonomy. That was obviously quite some time ago, and various things have changed since then, but I have a suspicion that iNat would rather remove the link to COL entirely than update it. :woman_shrugging:


all super helpful to know, thank you.

since people seem to tend to reference AlgaeBase directly in conversations regarding algal taxonomy on iNaturalist, I wonder if there is really that much value in continuing to refer to the 2012 COL edition, considering how many fewer species (and some perhaps spurious) are recognised there/then. there is still a lot of utility in being able to add names semi-automatically – I don’t think there’s any other database than COL that’s searched in that process, is there? – so I would prefer to see some link to COL maintained, but I’m not sure if the staff are willing to prioritise that functionality, or how difficult it would be to retrieve data from the current setup of COL.

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I spent a good amount of time and effort (API calls, tables, descriptive stats, etc.) a few years ago trying to convince staff to update the COL link and didn’t really get anywhere. We can see if looping @loarie into the conversation does anything. But I’m not taking responsibility if he decides to cut it off entirely :grimacing:

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I really appreciate your efforts to get it updated, even if it didn’t take. the external name search feature has saved me a decent amount of time when adding insect taxa prompted by flags, and I wish others would try that first before flagging as there’s not infrequently a match in COL for arthropods and other things – even the 2012 edition, but much expanded in the edition available presently in 2023, which would save even more form-filling and searching time.
I keep hoping that the option can be included for POWO as well, since adding plant taxa accounts for a great proportion of flags, but I’m guessing that is far less likely.


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