Please subdivide Lepidoptera (Butterflies & Moths) and create a sub order Lepidoptera (Moths only)

When searching for observations, make sure that all observations are in this project:

Basically just a filter to exclude butterflies


iNat also implements Reptiles, which are paraphyletic with respect to Birds, and Lobe-finned Fishes, which are paraphyletic with respect to Tetrapods, and Lizards, which are paraphyletic with respect to snakes, etc. The rule against paraphyletic groups is clearly somewhat flexible.


You might also limit searches to one family at a time which would make for an organized way to sort through observations: start at the micros, skip the butterflies and proceed to the macro moths each by family or even tribe.


I really must learn the different moth families.


I’m surprised to learn there are any paraphyletic groups! I had assumed projects were the best way around this, with projects for trees of the world, algae of the world, and other popular paraphyletic groupings.


Thanks! I just joined Moths of the World. So practical!


Can iNat do searches that exclude groups? I think butterflies are a monophyletic group so a search for ‘Lepidoptera not in butterflies’ would get moths without needing to create an explicit moths group.


Yes, you can include &without_taxon_id= at the end of your search URL and put in the ID for butterflies. Or you can just use the observations included in the project @mws mentioned, since that project automatically does that search for you.


I’ve never quite understood the objection to intentionally paraphyletic groupings. If people very frequently want to look up reptiles excluding birds, why not make that straightforward? Clades are important, but groupings like “fish” are also important. Unless users are specifically told that every grouping is monophyletic, what harm is done by allowing paraphyly? “Trees” is polyphyletic, and worse, arbitrary (a big woody bush is a small tree) and so I see why it isn’t included.


Welcome to the forum!

I suspect your trees example is the reason they are not included, if they are not well defined clades then there is an argument about whether or not something is included.

I’d still like to see a few of the more common ones (like fish) included, if the site is to appeal to amateurs and those beginning to study natural history some appeal to those common place (albeit not monophyletic) concepts seems important to be welcoming.


I am not well educated on the systematics of it all, but when i open the explore tab
and type
Inat gives me as search item
Butterflies (Dagvlinders) Papilionoidae
which presents me with the entire stock of Papilionoidae.

What makes moths systematically different as a group of species? or -even better- macro moths and microlepidoptera.

Pardon me for bringing it up again… the url-solution works ok, but a search-item would be easier still



for European (or probably North American / North Asian) users the following search links may be useful for moths:

Macro Heterocera families (the larger moths, the classical bombyces & sphinges, noctuids, geometrids),49531,47214,56583,84429,122746,53784,62187

Micro #1 Heterocera families (the larger of the “micros”, snout, grass and leafroller moths),82789,47156

Micro #2 Heterocera families (the smaller “micros”, the rest),173581,453155,176535,51269,244425,61414,61352,53552,178892,55518,48149,47405,173393,345533,173636,417188,67431,417180

You can adjust geograpical location, or attributes like “needs ID” etc…


Clades are the analytical framework of taxonomy, so yes, not just important but central to modern taxonomy. Fish are a linguistic artifact premised on perceptions of nature that predate Linnaeus by thousands of years, so yes important, but not so much in a taxonomic context. There has been a lighthearted conversation about some of the historical meaning of fish in this topic.

The position of cladistics in taxonomy is a rather radical change in perception in a relatively short time. In the late 1980s I was hired as a sessional lecturer to fill in teaching an Ichthyology course at my alma mater and got reamed by the tenured professor I filled in for for doing a lecture on taxonomy that discussed cladistics relative to phenetics without dismissing the approach as an outlandish affront to common sense. It will take a while for this way of looking at things to percolate through the borders of academia into broader acceptance. INaturalist seems like a reasonable tool for promoting that process. Maybe if we talk about Sarcopterygii instead of lobe-finned fishes it will be easier to sell. Unless you speak Greek, I guess.

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I’ve taught phylogenetics also, and agree that clades are central to the modern understanding of evolution. I don’t think it is at all reasonable though to insist that clades are the only groups that naturalists should be allowed to straight forwardly consider. Would you intentionally make it more difficult for the many naturalists interested in reptiles but not birds to search for that paraphyletic group? Many of these are beginners, and would be confused and off-put if their search for reptiles returned mostly birds. The same is true of a search for fish that returned many tetrapods. iNat is a great tool for learning modern taxonomy, but that is very very far from its only purpose. We should not make other uses more difficult in our zeal for cladistic purity.


Promoting learning about biodiversity is iNat’s entire mandate. Other uses are incidental.

Not sure why you would ask that question. The answer is “No”.

A search for “reptiles” would return a list of results that reflects how the word is used on the site by the people who use the site. One of the things on the list might be the clade that includes birds, but only if iNat opted to implement the clade using that vernacular name or projects were named using that meaning. Otherwise, I expect that the search results would look much the same as they do now, which is mostly a list of local projects. A search for “fishes” currently returns results that include taxonomic categories of “fish”, birds, plants, insects and whatnot purely on the basis of common naming practices and text in the relevant entries. If there are people who are confused by “silverfishes” popping up in their searches I imagine they are few.

The functional difference for iNat of a shift in emphasis towards clades would be barely noticeable, especially if implemented with user experience as a priority (which I imagine it would be). I don’t think that the current arrangement is in need of immediate radical revision. A shift in how polyphyletic groups are treated is inevitable and wholly consistent with iNat’s mandate. I expect that it will happen gradually, with regard for the needs of users and in a manner that promotes understanding of biodiversity and its study.

This is very misleading. Many iNat users have goals beyond broadly learning about biodiversity. Also, learning about biodiversity is not synonymous with learning modern taxonomy. There are many frames through which scientists and naturalists appropriately understand biodiversity beyond strict cladistics. Many paraphyletic groups, including fish, are well worth studying in particular ecological, economic, and social contexts. iNat is a fabulous tool for building amateurs’ interest, and the exclusion of paraphyletic groups like “reptiles” would make that harder.

There is a generation (or two) of cladists who had to fight the whole old guard of pre-phylogenetic taxonomists for recognition of the correctness and importance of phylogenetic thinking and clades. As often happen in such disputes, combatants on both sides became convinced that their way of thinking was not only a good way, but the only possible way, of thinking, and that anyone using any other system had to be told that they were wrong. Phylogenetic thinking is not the only way. Other approaches to understanding biodiversity are also appropriate and necessary, and are complementary.

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@pmeisenheimer is not offering his opinion there - it is the stated mandate of iNat - to encourage us non-scientists to notice the nature around us.


If that’s how you feel about it you need to take it up with the folks who run iNat, not me. They’re pretty clear about what is and what is not part of their mandate.



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