Note to curators: Ignore nonsensical synonyms on POWO

This is really tiresome. On POWO, there are numerous synonyms that never have been valid names or that have long stopped to be relevant etc… They keep them on there because those obsolete names “are used for innumerable projects, including some historic ones where this is important”. However, this has no importance at all for Inaturalist, on the contrary, it only adds to confusion.
Please stick with modern names that are relevant today.


Can you please add some examples of what you’re referring to, as suggested in the About the General category topic?


This seems like a discussion which should be held on flags for each individual taxon. Most curators do not visit the forum.

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How having synonyms on iNat affects anything though? They’re just there, maybe taking place, but really I see no harm in seeing old unused names, sometimes those are names used in local checklists, so people could likely know them and not a current valid name.


I actually think having the synonyms added to species (so long as it is done properly so that they function as obsolete synonyms) is very useful. Otherwise people who are using an old source or a different taxonomy and think they’ve found a species just add a new species with the obsolete name, and someone else then has to notice and merge the taxa. Only recently I found someone had uploaded an observation of ‘Eristalis vinetorum’, it’s been ‘Palpada vinetorum’ for absolutely ages! Similarly where there are taxonomic disputes it’s helpful to have the alternatives noted to whatever approach iNat is taking. Just this week I’ve been helping clear up a small family of flies with a disputed taxonomy (c70 species worldwide - most of which are very rarely observed) where there were 5 species that were present in multiple genera in iNat becuase people had just added things as whatever they knew when it already existed somewhere else - so we made sure to add synonyms to the whole family. Not sure if there’s something specific about POWO that I’m missing though.


I see no harm either and agree with @matthewvosper that they are useful. In addition to what’s already been said, the synonyms essentially have to be there so that duplicate taxons are not created (and that if they are, once things have been resolved by a curator they don’t inadvertently get added back… especially for taxa that can be imported from external name sources).


I’m going to close this topic. @spins if you have a specific concern, please flag the taxon on iNaturalist.