Scientific name changes

When a scientific name changes and an observation uses the old name what do you do? The old name is the same organism (synonymy). Do you “disagree” and use the new name with reference to the old name or “agree” and note the new name in the comments.

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Depends. Is the new name supported in the iNat taxonomy? If yes, then disagree with the incorrect ID and suggest the right one. If the iNat taxonomy is out of date (or you disagree with it), agree, note the new name, and flag the taxon for curation.

Per the FAQ:

I don’t agree with iNaturalist’s taxonomy. Do I have to follow it when I add an ID?

As much as possible iNaturalist tries to follow secondary taxonomic authorities, for reasons explained here. We understand that not everyone will agree with the current taxonomy on iNaturalist, but we believe it is important that when you add an identification to an observation, you should follow the taxonomy here. This is important because:

  • It ensures we are all talking about the same things. While you may not personally agree with our current definition of Exampelia generica, everyone on iNaturalist will at least understand what is meant by an ID of Exampelia generica.
  • When taxonomy is updated, those updates will be correctly reflected in the ID.
  • It prevents messy taxonomic arguments on observation pages, where they don’t belong.So if you don’t want to follow iNaturalist’s taxonomy for a taxon, please refrain from adding an ID for said taxon - you can add a polite comment instead. If you have an issue with any taxon on iNaturalist, you can go to the taxon’s page, click on Curate (under the graph) and select “Flag for curation”. There you can write a note (citing evidence), and the site curators can discuss your proposal.

iNaturalist’s taxonomy is a communally-curated synthesis, and thus no one agrees with all of it. If you can’t accept a taxonomy that you don’t completely agree with, iNaturalist is probably not the place for you, and you should instead consider other data recording platforms.

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I would agree, note the new name in comment and flag the taxon for curation.
It reminds me that these two still haven’t been adressed:
https://inaturalist.org/flags/520416 and https://inaturalist.org/flags/520418
EDIT: for the examples above, the new names are already on iNaturalist.

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Be aware that it’s somewhat different in practice for plants and animals. Because plant names rely primarily on Plants of the World Online, which tends to adopt new names quickly and relatively uncritically, they get updated fast (sometimes too fast for my tastes, where new synonymies are unjustified, but that’s how it goes). But since there isn’t a similar central resource for animals, or even most subgroups of animals, they tend to lag much further behind. ITIS and GBIF, two of the major sources, are often quite out of date.

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As well, iNat has a list of ‘approved’ taxonomic authorities. So for insects (NA), it follows Bugguide taxonomy. From what I understand, this is for two reasons: it’s open source, so anyone can access it; it has reasonably up to date taxonomic data for a notoriously difficult group. See Curator Guide · iNaturalist.ca

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Specifically for Fungi finding the original source peer reviewed paper can be difficult. Fortunately many are open access. It gets problematic when there are a large number of journals etc where you need to pay significant amount of money to get access to the paper.
In addition to Species Fungorum http://speciesfungorum.org/Names/Names.asp there is MycoBank https://www.mycobank.org/ which I prefer for synonymy.
Then there is the species range issue…

A related issue is when there are several conflicting names available on iNaturalist. For instance, Taro – most people default to Colocasia esculenta, but as you can see, it is possible to get quite messy, disputing whether esculenta is the species and antiquorum the subspecies, or the reverse. Of the dropdown taxa shown in the screenshots, C. affinis is the only one that is undisputedly not a synonym of the rest.


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This is very strange. I don’t see why there is any debate about the correct species name unless antiquorum is considered a separate species from esculenta. The former is from 1832 and the latter from 1753, so esculenta is unambiguously the senior synonym. See here: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/31894#page/141/mode/1up