List of paraphyletic groups in iNat's Taxonomy

iNat’s taxonomy mostly implements what are believed to be monophyletic groups, but includes at least a handful of clearly paraphyletic groups. I thought it might be useful to have a list of these to add to as they come up, and I couldn’t find one.

In a previous discussion, now closed, here:

we identified a few examples.

Dicots excluding monocots
Lizards excluding snakes
Reptiles excluding birds
Lobe-finned fish excluding tetrapods

and I’ve just found out that Crustaceans on iNat excludes insects.

Please note that I am not objecting to the inclusion of paraphyletic groups. I find great use in paraphyletic groups, and as an evolutionary biologist find the arguments against mentioning them very unconvincing, particularly in a public facing platform like this. But it is very much worth knowing that they are paraphyletic.

My focus here is this question: What other paraphyletic groups does iNat implement? Thank you.


Comparing Wikipedia list to iNat taxonomy shows some examples like Vespoidea excludes Apoidea.

Here’s a similar discussion about why polyphyletic groups aren’t allowed:

Just some food for thought

@neontetraploid that discussion was about paraphyletic group with different parent taxons, here it’s about groups that don’t consist of all children taxons, like birds are treated out of reptiles while they’re still them.

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Yeah I know. I just thought people coming into this thread might want to read a discussion on a tangentially related topic

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I’m really personally confused why those two different situations are called the same name, in my mind it was what is discussed in that second topic and now it’s something else, need to read about it later!

Taxa with different parent taxa that nevertheless get lumped together are polyphyletic. Taxa that are defined to exclude one or more of their daughter taxa are paraphyletic. I think the discussion @neontetraploid linked to was mostly about polyphyletic groups, not paraphyletic.


What Wikipedia list, please?

Thank you, yeah, I definitely needed sleep at that time! This one, it’s not big though.

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Discussions like this could become pretentious if we’re not careful. Birds may be phylogenetically within reptiles, but including them in reptiles would require a lot of changes to our practical definition of reptiles; to the point that it would be nigh impossible to have a useable definition.

There are already problems on iNaturalist due to the elimination of Class Pisces: sharks and rays which appear as “vertebrates,” because the original observer wanted to ID them as “fishes,” and the only option which has that word in it is “ray-finned fishes.” Someone else then gave the more precise ID, which is not a daughter of ray-finned fishes. Phylogenetic pedantry only makes nature even less accessible to laypersons, which is the opposite of iNaturalist’s purpose.


Birds follow the same rules and as we discussed they just lumped what other groups had, we have no problem calling other dinos reptiles and some of them look almost exactly as birds while not related to them closely. In practice nothing will change, as we already treat crocodilians other way than lizards and snakes, and turtles are something completely original and also there’s tuatara, so having one other group that is different will not make anything bad practically. It’s like mammals, bat and elephant are completely different in their skeleton, but base is the same.

I feel like we agree, except that I don’t see wanting to know what groups are paraphyletic and pushing for their elimination as equivalent.

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That’s not such a good example; the traditional concept of Vespoidea has basically completely fallen apart in the face of recent phylogenies. The current concept of Vespoidea is much more restricted; while the non-apoid, non-ant wasps mostly form one clade, there’s nothing that unites them (figure is from Branstetter et al. 2017):

I think the example works anyway, bees and wasps form one unit, I don’t know which taxonomy will be implemented on iNat one day.

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As implemented on iNat now, is Vespoidea paraphyletic? If so then it is a perfect example.

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