"May be" ID option

I’d like to suggest that along with the suggested ID, there could be a maybe ID, which could be a discrete link you click that is replaced with a proper species box.
I will explain its utility.

  • You could ID an item to e.g. a Genus, and put a Species in the “maybe” box, and iNat would process it as you had entered the main entry (here Genus), but would be findable in searches by the entry in the maybe. As an additional entry you’ve clicked to give you could even provide the option of Maybe or Probably etc.
  • This also solves a particular problem where you enter a recommended Id so it’s findable and say with the comment it’s most likely this but check for XXX or someone really experienced will confirm and then the poster just enters your ID and pushes it to research grade. The alternative of simply giving Genus isn’t very helpful for searches if something is most probably something but not 100%, and this would solve that.

I approved this, but I’d say it’s pretty unlikely to be implemented as iNat’s unlikely to stray from the “ID to the taxonomic level you’re sure of” model. But I think this is an interesting suggestion.


Could you have two “maybe IDs” for an observation? I often am fairly sure this is either A or B, but not C, D, E, F, or G.


In such cases, it seems best to choose an upper taxonomic rank, e.g., a species complex or a subgenus.


I think the problem with the current model is that it’s too coarse. A genus may have hundreds or thousands of taxa, and you’re trying to pinpoint a particular species and extremely similar alternative that is usually a close ally, so saying to use the genus is like saying if you’re not sure which of two neighbouring houses someone lives in, just specify the whole town. It’s much better to specify the specific alternatives in question.
This also plays out for very close taxa that were once subtaxa (where you could enter the species to capture them both) and the two subtaxa become elevated to species and you suddenly have to replace with a very vague genus.

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I cover that situation by IDing to genus.
Then leave a comment A or B.
When a taxon specialist says B because, I will come back and agree.
The genus would be filtered for by the relevant identifiers - which is my intention.


It may be the local specialist that wants to id with a little uncertainty - the limitation being the photo rather than necessarily the expertise.

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I hear you - but I see them in turn spell out
Can’t see the green striped toenails - did you check?
Okay, next time I hike that way will look for it again.

Or they leave a cautious description of possible species - but don’t add any ID. Jury is still out.


What I find in the region here (Antalya) a lot of the records are by visitors (bit of a tourist region), who are perhaps come for a week or two, or just days. It would be ideal if they would revisit and get necessary details, but in practice people’s revisiting skills are poor even if resident unless something’s on their doorstep or a regular spot they go to, and for visitors much less likely.
But the records are still important to record as closely as possible - it may be a choice of one or two equally unusual species and it becomes unfindable/lost for anyone looking for certain species if it’s just set to genus level…

I support something like this suggestion. The idea is basically the ability to add ‘cf’ identifications, which is commonplace. Often people write this in the comments here - but that is not searchable.

There is in fact a ‘cf’ annotation available in iNat, which is useful - and I do use it - but it would be nice if it were more prominent and worked a little differently. I would like to be able to add a ‘cf’ and have it appear in a similar format to the ‘ID disagreement’ text below the ID box. As @meteorquake suggests, it should be searchable but it should not affect the community ID in any way. It should also be possible for different IDer’s to add a different ‘cf’ to their own IDs without it replacing the other person’s (as at present).

Ideally when searching for a taxon it should be possible to toggle whether you want ‘cf’ included in the search or not (‘not’ by default I would imagine).


That’s what the comment portion is for.

If I think it’s a certain species, but am not confident, I’ll leave the ID at the genus level and include what species I think it is in the comment box.


Off on a tangent. Now, if I know it is IDed as the Wrong species
iNat forces me suggest a better ID. We end up with a lot of hard disagreement to dunno but it IS Plantae which requires the more than 2/3 to overturn it, which makes unnecessary work for tautly stretched identifiers.

If only we could say what we mean and know!
It is NOT Wrong species

PS better, easy, search options in the comment box would help. Perhaps an option to subscribe to My species mentioned in comments?


Surely that’s an issue with the taxonomy, rather than the ID options? If the closest encompassing taxon is the genus, then that is what must be used. If there are valid intermediate taxa that are currently missing from the taxonomy, it should be updated accordingly. But failing that, the available evidence should dictate which taxon is used.

I don’t see who would benefit from be able to search for “maybes”. Such information would be redundant to knowledgeable identifiers, since they already know what the potential alternatives are. I think there’s also a potential downside to the proposal, in that the presence of a “maybe” will almost inevitably encourage some users to make IDs that can’t really be justified by the available evidence. I have found that cf.-type comments can sometimes have this unintended side-effect, so for that reason I tend to use them quite sparingly.


I think currently the best way to indicate “maybe” is in comments on the observation. In cases were I think it’s either species A or B, I often do what others have already said: Put a genus ID and add a comment that it’s either A or B within that genus. If I’m say 90% sure it’s A with maybe a 10% chance it’s B, I may go with A and add a comment that it could also be B but less likely. Other people may have different thresholds but honestly with cryptic species and constant changes to taxonomy no ID is ever going to be 100% certain.

If the observation already has a species ID of either A or B, I will often NOT disagree with it (since I can’t rule it out) but still only ID to genus and add a comment to alert the observer and other identifiers that this probably should not be pushed to RG at species level. Sometimes the observer will back up to genus level, often they won’t. There seems to be a trend to try to “get these out of Needs ID” by disagreeing and marking them can’t be improved but the wording then basically says “it can’t be this species, it must be something else” which isn’t correct in these cases. I don’t see the big problem with just marking them reviewed and leaving them there until there’s a better way to deal with these.


Also a lot of genuses that do have many many species will have the option to select a section, so that can help narrow it down a bit more even if you’re not 100% sure of a species - though I do notice that the CV usually doesn’t pull these up so you have to specifically search for them.

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I’m going to close the request. The approach on iNat is to ID to the finest taxonmic level you believe the evidence allows, and add anything further in a comment. The Data Quality Assessment can often be used to get the observation to Research Grade, and where available internodes like species complexes can be used. You can also use an Observation Field to add what you think the organism might be.