Mandatory source or reason in taxon changes

Request title pretty much sums it up, when entering a Taxa change, a source should be mandatory, not optional to document where the change information has come from.

4 posts were split to a new topic: Including author citations for taxa?

Definitely agree with this request! There should always be a cite-able basis for a taxon change.


Ideal but tough to implement in some cases, like fixing a typos and other housecleaning changes.

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Using plant examples familiar to me, one should at least be able to cite POWO or IPNI or something to back up a spelling correction. Otherwise, how is one certain that a spelling is wrong?


Some housecleaning examples where a source isn’t really citable: (merging duplicates) (swapping duplicates) (changes that have more to do with curatorial jurisprudence than an external authoritative opinion; in this case, what “internodes” we should support)


Thanks, those are helpful cases. So could it be as simple as having a mandatory “Reason for Change” next to the Source box, with 2 options: Duplicate, Other.

Then if Other is selected, either a Source, or an entry in the Description box, must be added before the change would save?


I totally agree with this

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Having a mandatory reason for change, if not a specific source for the housecleaning type situations, sounds like a good idea to me.

One of many little things that would help improve taxonomic curation on iNat.


Sorry that I’m very late to the discussion. In 95+% of cases I would wholeheartedly agree. I’ve always listed the published source for a new taxon or a split.

Where I’m having trouble with mandatory citations is when BugGuide, the approved iNat source for North American insects, splits existing taxa by geography based on new information that doesn’t come from a published source. At least among moths, this issue is increasingly cropping up and seems to be more than “housekeeping”.

To date I’ve just been locating each record, entering the corrected taxon and “pinging” any other agreements. That’s been only partially successful; for users who are no longer active or don’t follow old records the taxon reverts to genus even when it had originally been IDed to species.

The presumably correct method would be to develop an atlas and split accordingly. But what do I cite for the source of the atlas/split. In one case (Tallulah atrofascialis vs. T. watsoni) it was about 20 emails, including pinned specimens and links to BOLD images, among 5 professionals and 2 amateurs to determine that almost all of the records on iNat, BugGuide and MPG (Moth Photographers Group) had been incorrectly assigned to the “wrong” taxon. BugGuide made the changes but only shows in “remarks” under the Info tab for each taxon that the source was the original descriptions from 1917 which did not include ranges.

What would be the best procedure for a source citation or reason? Copying 20 emails? Assume that BugGuide “remarks” is good enough?

Welcoming your thoughts!

(Without having looked into your example, most misidentifications shouldn’t be handled through taxon changes. Splitting a taxon on iNat based on unpublished research seems dicey to me.)

I think the spirit of this feature request is to have a mandatory explanation of some sort. Many people commit taxon changes with no source and no description. In a complicated example with multiple partial sources it might mean leaving the source blank and adding the explanation in the description.

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These are not misidentifications. They are geographic corrections to existing valid taxa that result from new data coming from BOLD, historical misrepresentations of geography, or new/additional methods to ID moths based on phenotypic characteristics. I suppose they could all be listed in the News of the Lepidopterists’ Society if that fulfills the published source. My assumption, though, is that unless BugGuide is no longer the official iNat authority for North American insects (which includes moths) iNat would follow whatever changes are made in BugGuide.

My question was simply how much info should be included, not whether there should be geographic corrections.

Since people’s IDs are being updated by the system automatically, the more information you can provide to interested people, the better, especially if it’s a lot of IDs and/or the change is confusing. But there’s a big trade-off with how much time it takes to type up/summarize that information and how much other curating (or other hopefully fun things) you can do in the time it takes to type that up. So that summary could be as short as “Updated range per BugGuide editors is X” or as long a couple paragraphs naming the key players, referenced material, or even how to identify the output taxa (if that’s relevant) so that people wondering why the taxon change is happening in the first place can learn a little in the process.

Instead of just citing Plants of the World Online and hitting commit, I tried to do that when I split Sambucus nigra because I knew it was a “disruptive” change. But that’s definitely an outlier as far as how much info I typically include beyond the source. If a taxon only has a handful of IDs I’d just be very brief in the explanation.


Thanks. That helps a lot. Between iNat IDing moths and some curation of moths (which really could use about 20 additional curators), MPG Mapping (correction of 500,000+ old records, vainly trying to incorporate ~400,000 new records from iNat and BG), and saddled with being a BugGuide editor, there are NO “other fun things”…unless I count prepping for an upcoming colonoscopy…just pitiful.