New Curator with Questions

Hello, I’m a new curator and have a lot of questions about the process. I searched the forum first but didn’t get helpful results so apologies if this is all better explained elsewhere and I’m just not finding it (if so please redirect me). My name is Laura and I have been an editor on BugGuide for about 10 years. My focus is spiders (Araneae). I applied to be a curator to help with spider taxonomy here. I figure as long as I’m updating BugGuide’s spider taxonomy I might as well make the updates here as well while the information is still fresh in my mind rather than flagging everything here and hoping someone else will do it for me.

When adding a new taxon is it preferred for the source that I cite the World Spider Catalog, or the specific paper where the family/genus/species was described/updated, or both? Is it possible for me to leave more than one source when adding a taxon? When adding a new source I have a choice of links I could leave for the source material … I could leave a direct link to the source or I could leave a link to where the material is located on the World Spider Catalog. Although it feels more professional to leave the official link to the source the benefit to leaving the WSC link is that I know people can actually download the paper there for free. Is there a preference? I’d like to move a species to a new genus … I made the genus (did I do it right? https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/1404715-Emertongone) … to move the species do I use taxon swap somehow as things already are, or do I make another copy of the species under the new genus to swap it with so that the old name still exists as inactive or does that happen automatically… Thank you in advance for any clarification.

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Hi Laura—great to have you join our curatorial team! Have you read through the curator guide? It covers some of the basics that might answer your questions.
https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/curator+guide

I don’t do anything with spider taxonomy, but it sounds like you should stick with WSC (according to what is mentioned here). You can use the same source for each one. If you find something that should be different from WSC, you can cite the primary literature.

No, but you can add multiple (secondary) links to taxon changes.

Not sure exactly what you’re asking, but to transfer a species to a new genus you first need to create the new name in the new genus. Then make a swap with the old name as the input and the new name as the output. The old name will be automatically inactivated. Don’t just change the parent of the old species to the new genus, because that doesn’t update the actual name.

Hope this helps—feel free to reach out if you have more questions!

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Thank you for your response.

Yes, I did not feel confident enough to really get started after reading that however. Better to ask questions first before making a mess of things.

That actually conflicts with what is stated in the curator guide, the guide says, " The ideal citation would be to the paper that introduced the change, along with a URL to that paper" … the World Spider Catalog provides official links to those papers, which I could use … but (and I would leave this up to the preference of curators who already focus on spiders) … I could also just send them to where the WSC also has that same paper available for free download. I could do it the right way, or the more helpful way. Just to be clear, I base my taxonomic updates on information I get from the WSC. It’s rare that I have a reason to disagree with the WSC, but when I do I typically don’t do anything beyond making a note about it on the relevant info page with a citation to where I got the conflicting information. I wouldn’t change existing taxonomy based on that though. (An example are the Lycosa ranges listed there … the genus just needs to be revised.)

I think that answers my question. I am used to doing it another way, with BugGuide I would just move the species to the new genus and I would add a note with citations about the change under the info tab. I will try again later.

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Yes, but immediately following:

Since it’s a pain to add a new Source record for every single page, it’s often easier to set the Source as the website and include a specific URL to the page on that website that describes the change on the description.

So you can use WSC as the source for new taxa and taxon changes, but put the link to the primary literature (as well as WSC) in the comments box or description.

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Thanks again for your help. I made the swap this morning, does this look acceptable? https://www.inaturalist.org/taxon_changes/112765

I’m seeing 30+ different copies of the World Spider Catalog under sources - none of which are the current version, I don’t think I want to pick through or add to all that so maybe I will stick with adding the paper that introduced the change for the source, I enjoy adding that information and that is easier for me than sussing out all those copies of WSC! I included the link to the WSC in the description, that shows up first anyhow.

Edit: Any idea why it says on the taxon change, " Sourced to World Spider Catalog Version 20.0" when WSC is currently on version 23.5?

That swap looks good to me. If you’re ever unsure, you can create a draft and mention some other curators before committing.

Yeah that’s pretty common for the sources we use. It doesn’t really matter exactly which one. If I type in just “wsc” I see the most current one:
Screen Shot 2022-07-31 at 3.09.01 PM

What’s important is that you’re showing other curators that you’re sourcing to the accepted authority—the exact specifics don’t matter as much. (Although I don’t do anything with WSC so I’m not sure if version matters.)

I won’t say you can’t do this, but it definitely gets annoying after you’ve done a lot of taxon changes.

I’m guessing you’re referring to this?

Screen Shot 2022-07-31 at 3.14.40 PM
That’s referring to a taxon framework, which is an official iNat way of keeping track of whether our taxonomy is in line with external sources or not. So the taxon framework is sourced to version 20.0. I’m not sure why it’s not updated, but that would be a question for staff. You can read more about TFRs here.

Also,

You basically do this with all supraspecific taxa. But because the genus is part of the species name in our system, you can’t do that with species.

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:exclamation:I think I typed it out the long way, I may have been getting different results.

“Sourced to World Register of Marine Species” … I don’t understand how that part relates to spiders. :upside_down_face:

The next thing I want to attempt involves adding a genus because another genus has been deemed it’s junior synonym. The Wikipedia info is wrong (not up to date). I don’t want to edit Wikipedia. Should I just uncheck Wikipedia in these circumstances?

Is it acceptable to swap the old genus for the new one in this circumstance, and presumably (I hope) all of it’s species will be corrected with that action? Or do I have to make new species under the new genus to swap with until the old genus is empty and then deactivate it?

Yes the search is finicky. See this similar thread.

The kingdom is sourced to WoRMS because most major animal groups are marine. And WoRMS has a nice system that covers a lot of other groups, including some terrestrial ones.

You can still leave the Wikipedia link connected, because all the other info should be correct. Our taxonomy doesn’t always agree but that’s OK.

If you check “Move children to output?” then all the species will be automatically moved. If it’s a new genus you don’t have to worry about duplicates, but you will have to look out for different endings because of gender changes to the names. Those will require swaps, unless you created the species in the first place and can edit them.

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Thanks again. I think everything went smoothly. No gender changes on the species names … that sounds like a very annoying thing to have happen. Always good to double check that they’re all there and spelled correctly regardless.
https://www.inaturalist.org/taxon_changes/112795

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Looks good to me! If you’re interested in working with spider taxonomy, here’s a list of all the names that haven’t been reconciled with WSC.
https://www.inaturalist.org/taxon_frameworks/24/relationship_unknown

Might want to read some more about taxon frameworks first though.
https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/taxon_frameworks

Just looking at a few I think I know how to resolve them so that should keep me busy for a while… there’s a lot so I’m thinking I should prioritize the ones that have observations.

Is there a way to just see a list of flags for Araneae? Also I’ve just added a missing family (still need to move some genera to it). It was added to the WSC last May so fairly recent. I wanted to to compare the family list on WSC to iNat’s to see if anything was missing but I couldn’t figure out how to see a complete alphabetized family list on iNat because of the deviations, so just typed in and manually searched for recently added families to make sure they were there.

At https://www.inaturalist.org/flags if you choose Content Type = taxon, then press Filter, a taxon search pops up so you can search for just flags on Araneae. https://www.inaturalist.org/flags?utf8=✓&flagger_type=any&flagger_name=&flagger_user_id=&user_name=&user_id=&flaggable_type=Taxon&taxon_name=Araneae&taxon_id=47118&deleted=any&flags[]=inappropriate&flags[]=other&reason_query=&resolved=no&resolver_name=&resolver_user_id=&commit=Filter&utf8=✓&flagger_user_id=&commit=Filter

(see https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/show-taxon-filter-on-flags-page-before-committing-search/12452 for a request not to have to press that filter button first)

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Thank you! I had missed taxon being in there.

I don’t think this is possible, but you can try messing around with the filters here. That link has all internal families with TFRs. You can search for external taxa that aren’t internal, but only if someone added a TFR for such an instance. I’m not sure why someone would do that, and it doesn’t look like anyone has. Note that alternate positions are names that match, but are grafted differently.

I made a new family and transferred some genera and species over to it. The family they were removed from now has two empty subfamilies in it. I don’t know if they’re valid anymore, I don’t care if they go but someone added them so someone must have wanted them. There is also a nomen dubium genus with one nomen dubium species with one (albeit very nice) photo in it (probably belongs in Luthela). How do I straighten that out? (Heptathelinae, Liphistiinae and Sinothela)

Sounds like a situation where you might want to add a flag and ask some spider people. Nomina dubia should be listed as a deviations (if you’re adding TFRs), but I inactivate them if they don’t have any active IDs. Does WSC not use subfamilies? I’m not familiar with the site, but I’m not seeing any under Heptathelidae. I’d ask whoever created them if they’re still needed.

This sounds like one larger family is being split into two smaller families? If so, keep in mind that this also raises the need for a taxon split at the family level, so that any identifications at the old family rank are either changed to the correct smaller family (if the split can be atlased to distinguish them geographically), or are changed to the next higher rank (where they overlap geographically) until the correct Family ID can be re-assessed.

If the concepts of the old subfamilies fit completely within the new family that you created, but are not valid if transferred to the new family, then those subfamilies should be swapped into the new family to become synonyms. That way any previous IDs at the subfamily level will be updated to the correct family.

If the concepts (regardless of contents in iNat) of the old subfamilies included genera that belong to both new families, then they will also need to be split using taxon changes to correctly handle any previous IDs at subfamily rank.

Likewise, if this resulted in a narrowed concept for the old genus, a split should probably be done to handle genus-level IDs that were based on the old, broader concept. Since all but one of the species remained in the old genus (if I’m seeing it right), hopefully the split can be atlased to avoid changing a bunch of genus-level IDs to subfamily IDs. But if there is a large geographic overlap between the two genera, then a more cautious approach might be warranted.

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WSC does not use subfamilies or subgenera which is one reason they are problematic for spiders. I’m not a big fan of them for that reason but some of them are helpful.

It didn’t occur to me to handle it that way but I’ll keep that in mind if a messy taxonomic change comes along. I’m sure I’ll be back with more questions when there is. Looking at what was left behind in the original family and going by range, there are only 5 observations (including the nomen dubium) that may be better placed in the new family. Again, going by location … 3 definitely and 2 iffy. So I could just tell them about the change and let them decide where they want them filed.

I don’t know if Heptathelinae will be worked into Heptathelidae. I didn’t see it mentioned in the recent literature.

I can’t imagine with only one genus in Liphistiidae that Liphiistinae is still relevant.

I’m not sure I’d want to do that for a Dwarf Spider (Erigoninae) (that’s what it was)… that is a difficult group to ID to species or even genus from photos. They mostly get filed to subfamily or family.

Just to clarify, the need for doing taxon split changes in iNaturalist is not about how complex the change is, or whether we think previous identifications were justifiable based on photos, etc.

When a curator narrows the scope of an existing iNat taxon by moving some of its contents to a different taxon, any observations that were “filed” (identified) using the old, broader scope of the first taxon will no longer reflect the intent of the identifier (whether or not we agree with their identification) at the time they added their identification.

A taxon split fixes that by either (1) updating old identifications to the new, narrower taxon concepts when they can be reliably inferred geographically, or (2) bumping old identifications up to the next higher-ranked common ancestor of the new taxon concepts (where they overlap geographically), so that the original identifier is notified and can re-assess which of the new taxon concepts they might want to use for the observation. Hope my description is making sense…

Likewise with outdated subfamily or subgenus taxa - if somebody could previously have used such taxa to add an identification to an iNat observation (rightly or wrongly), and a curator now wants to abandon them, they need to be swapped (once emptied of their descendant taxa) into the appropriate “current” equivalent taxa (at the same or higher rank), so that the system will update any previous identifications (using those ranks) to the current concepts.

And finally, because it can’t be said enough, thank you for joining the ranks of iNaturalist curators and helping to keep iNat taxonomy up to date!

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Maybe I’m not understanding but figuring out if a group can be reliably inferred geographically can potentially require a prohibitive amount of research first? What if I have a clear enough understanding of a group to look over the images and determine that nothing or only a small number of images need to be sent back a level?

Looking at the link of names not reconciled with WSC that thomaseverest left … I see one I’d like to reconcile that involves adding a new genus, that genus includes two species currently placed in Araneus, one with images, and one without, plus three newly described species. The new genus is restricted to Australia. The genus I’m taking these species from (Araneus) is pretty much global. There are over 2,000 images in Araneus from Australia and I don’t want to bump them back to family on the off chance a few of them might belong to this new genus. How should that change be handled?