Show an alert when creating a new taxon or synonym that's in use elsewhere

Platform(s), website

URLs (aka web addresses) of any pages, if relevant:

Description of need:
When creating a new taxon, a common mistake would be to overlook an existing synonymy or an inactive taxon (same name) on iNaturalist. Similarly, when adding a synonym, a common mistake would be to overlook a bona species (same name) or a synonymy with another species. In addition, avoiding to go “back and forth” with taxon changes would be highly desirable.

Feature request details:
It would be super to get an alert window, hinting at these cases. Specifically:
(1) when creating a new taxon, alert me if that exact name (1a) already exists as an inactive taxon or (1b) exists as a synonym with another species, which should be within the same subfamily / tribe or if the species part of the name (1c) exists linked to another genus name within the same subfamily / tribe.
(2) when creating a new synonym (or trivial name), alert me if that exact name (2a) is already set as a synonym to another species, which should be within the same subfamily / tribe or (2b) is already listed as a bona species, which should be within the same subfamily / tribe.
(3) when creating a new taxon change, alert me if these names involved have been used in previous taxon changes.
These could be simple warning windows popping up, which should not stop the user from doing it anyway. Thank you for considering.

Great idea! I really do believe that through alerts and helping users better understand the point of iNaturalist we can really make it a better place.

One possible re-work of this for the actual people who would have to do the work:

If potentially it was to troublesome and hard to create an AI to review all of that (which I doubt) it could simply send you a catch-all method when editing a taxon to prevent mistakes.

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Strongly agree with this suggestion. There have been several times I’ve created a new name only to realize I could have reactivated an inactive name afterwards.

For suggestion 2, this already shows up when you edit a common name (e.g. ) so it shouldn’t be hard to reuse this code to create an alert during name creation.

There is already a pop-up which tells you if a taxon is already part of a drafted taxon change when you try to create a new taxon change for that taxon. These alters would be quite similar to that.


@loarie could tell us for sure, but in general I think it is not a good idea to re-activate a previously inactivated taxon. Such taxa are usually inactivated as part of taxon changes (often very old ones), and I’m guessing re-activation would create conflicts with the taxon change history. Also, the previous incarnation of the name may have had a different intended scope (circumscription) than the proposed new version.

I think it will always be cleaner to use existing or newly-created taxa for new taxon changes, even if old inactivated versions of the name exist in the database.


That would be good to know for sure because I thought we were supposed to reactivate and update if the name already exists in the database. At least one person told me to do this a few years ago, maybe loarie. Assuming I’ve done things right, I have been annoyed that those inactivated names we are supposed to update are somewhat hidden as I have accidentally created duplicates because of that. It could get really messy if there are multiple versions of the same name in the database.


The system already seems to enforce only one active record of a name at a time with the same parent taxon (if not within the same Kingdom). Given that design, I think it was expected that there could and would be both active and inactive versions of a name. And for that reason, it may also be by design that the inactive ones are not made easy to find.