Name importer improvements - wiki

iNaturalist is far from a complete list of species. There are currently two ways for regular users to get new species added to iNaturalist. One is to flag the parent taxon for curation, such as flagging a genus when it is missing a species, or flagging a family if it is missing a genus. Curators then manually add the taxon to the database.

The other is a semi-automated import option where an iNat user enters the name of the taxon in a search field and selects “Search external name providers”. Behind the scenes, the iNat system searches Encyclopedia of Life and Catalogue of Life to see if the name is there and tries to add it to the database directly, without need for a curator.

Those name imports can cause various issues and have some bugs that have been mentioned several times on the forum. A few previous relevant topics are listed at the bottom.

Here’s a place to collect ideas for improvements to the name importer and process:

  • Prevent extinct taxa (COL has an “extinct” field, could also cross-check with something like PaleoDB)
  • Prevent imports in locked/frameworked/complete clades (see feature request), e.g. mammals, birds, certain plant families, etc.
  • Prevent duplicates (see bug report 1 and 2), i.e. matches to current iNat active or inactive names, ideally including slightly fuzzy matching like alborufus vs alborufa, rozeti vs rozetii (hemi-homonyms can be requested via flags)
  • Prevent names ending in ssp, subs, va, fide (see bug report)
  • Prevent known synonyms, either listed under taxon names or in Taxon Framework Relationships (see feature request)
  • When import is prevented for any of the above reasons, pop up a notification with instructions for the alternative (to flag the relevant higher taxon for curation) and include (if discernable) a link to the appropriate taxon page to flag.
  • Don’t add the taxon immediately at lookup time, ask the user if they really want to import (see feature request) e.g. if it’s being added as a synonym
  • No imports above family
  • Don’t graft species directly to a genus that has subgenera
  • Stop using COL 2012 (and fix the related Algaebase issues)
  • Fix whatever is bringing in trinomial subspecies at rank species
  • Add Plants of the World Online (see feature request) or other taxonomic authorities listed in the Curator Guidelines as name provider with priority over COL for certain taxa?
  • Search box at bottom of[]=taxa can search for the wrong taxon (see bug report)

Other relevant discussions:


Not sure if this is actually a wiki yet, I cant seem to edit, only reply.

I would add to the list some means to import more than 1 name at a time, so or example if a publication names 8 new species in genus, give me some means to provide that list of 8 names and add once, don’t make me do the import 8 separate times.

Especially relevant in the event additional api links to source databases such as POWO, WSC wtc are added.


sorry, should be editable now!


I’m not sure if this fits what you’re looking for, but you can batch search external name providers by creating a new list with the names you want to import (csvs also accepted).

The same thing is possible by updating a checklist. Problems are it is limited to the 2 right now in place, and all the issues above in the wiki apply.

The ‘big’ aggregators of EoL and CoL lag well behind the specialist sites used as taxonomy references.

One thing I woul like to see is an explicit warning that a name should only be imported for good reason and not simply ‘because it isn’t there’.

iNat is not a names/taxonomy database and the names should be dded only if they are needed for observations or a cited checklist.

For fungi we have few capabale curators. iNat currently has 14,500 fungal names with many requests to add aditional names because they appear in some publication. For fungi over 120,000 species have been described for which we have over half a million names. It is already impossible to keep the taxonomy current for the 14,500 species. Trying to do that for 120,000 would be impossible and pointless because most of the species will never be seen/identified by iNatters.


Do you mean a written statement as a 'gentle reminder ’ , similar to the adding a common names guidelines text, or some kind of popup asking you to confirm the reason each time you go to import something?

While I appreciate the sentiment, I’m not sure the latter will drive any behaviour change, people will still import stuff, and it will annoy curators trying to maintain taxonomy.

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I don’t know what you mean by this. You’d like some other non-list way to batch import names?

I’d like if I send it a batch it to process it as a batch, not come back and say I cant find these names, click the search link x number of times to do them one at a time.

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I’m also a little frustrated when users want to “fill out” large parts of the taxonomy just to have, but there is (to my knowledge) no current policy discouraging this.

The text from the help page says:

How do I add a missing species to the iNaturalist database?
If a species or other taxon is missing from the iNaturalist database, first try clicking the “Search external name providers” link that appears after you search for a name and get no results. You can also try alternative names that we might recognize (common names, old scientific names). If that doesn’t work, add the original name to the description or as a comment. Then navigate to the taxon page where the name should appear, such as the genus of the missing species, and click “Curation,” then “Flag for curation” on the right side of the page. Leave a short message explaining what needs to be done as well as some information establishing the legitimacy of the name, like links to websites or books that use it.

So maybe a first step would be to clarify a policy on good reasons to import names?


Having taxons without observations can be very useful, I curate some red books’ projects and if species were in taxonomy already I wouldn’t spend time adding them and comparing sources, and they’re needed to be added, I and anybody else can’t just ignore big part of lists because they have no observations yet, lots of regions on Earth have only a few of species recorded on iNat, when new people come they don’t need to first learn how to add species. Doesn’t mean we have to add hundreds of thousands of species just to be, just wanted to say it’s generally not a bad practice to do.

Just to further clarify, those 2 tools are really meant for adding existing taxa to lists. The use case I have is I have a bunch of new names published in the taxa I manage. It is not uncommon to get 10+ new ones a day. Over 1500 new species were named in 2020, if I let them back up, they will require significant time.

The names wont be in col or eol. I want to batch input that list and create them all at once. If that is by reading the api or just accepting them I dont care. I want the time required to add all these species reduced.

If they won’t be in EOL, then I’m not sure they fall under the purview of this name importer wiki. I guess I would suggest you make a separate feature request for batch taxon creation from scratch, rather than batch imports.

Isn’t that the point of the 2nd to last point in the list?

The only reason to add POWO or other sources is to deal with names not in col or EoL.

No because we’re never going to be able to add all possible taxonomic sources to the name importer, so I think an independent batch taxon creation is a separate request.

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