Locked taxa and Search external name providers

As a curator of locked taxa, it’s not uncommon for me to run into this scenario:

  • someone types in a scientific name, but doesn’t find it in our taxonomy
  • they search external name providers and get a hit
  • the taxon comes in ungrafted
  • but we already have a senior synonym in the system

Now I have to let them know this isn’t our accepted name (but they can flag for further discussion), plus curate the ungrafted taxon into the synonym.

I’m wondering if we might be able to prevent scenarios like this one by asking the external name providers for the ancestors of the taxon to be imported. If any of our locked taxa (mammals, birds, etc.) are ancestors, do not allow the import.

Does this seem like a reasonable solution or am I missing something obvious?

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If by this you mean adding the ungrafted name as a Scientific Name synonym of the accepted taxon, I think that is a good thing to have to do, since it will help direct future name searches to the accepted taxon.

When I have dealt with these for plants (not locked), I just inactivate the ungrafted taxon instead of swap it (unless there are IDs already using it), and manually add the synonym to the accepted taxon. So in this sense, I think it is adding value to the iNat taxonomy to have these ungrafted names come in and be dealt with.

But once they are dealt with the first time, I would be all for having the system not allow them to come in again from external sources, at least for locked taxa.

And if we do restrict that, you are right about needing ancestor information to make sure the proposed import is not a hemi-homonym from some other Kingdom instead.

Once the name already exists on iNat (active or inactive) doesn’t the external search fail when it tries to add it again though?

I would hope so, but I don’t know that for a fact. Given the number of duplicate ungrafted names I have seen in the past, I kinda doubt it.

I recently deleted several duplicate taxa (Orders maybe) that all appeared to come from the same source ID from the Catalog of Life, so I agree there seems to be room for improvement here.

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