Single nominate subspecies

I’ve noticed a lot of flags recently about single subspecies and varieties. Technically, we’re not suposed to have ssp and var (e.g. Tragelaphus strepsiceros ssp. strepsiceros) that are only children below species (e.g. Tragelaphus strepsiceros). We should either add some other ssp/var (e.g. Tragelaphus strepsiceros ssp. cottoni) or remove the single child if the species is monotypic.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to keep these single ssp/var situations from getting introduced into the database as preventing them would be complicated to enforce.

I did go ahead and resolve cases where we have single non-nominates (e.g. Tragelaphus strepsiceros ssp. cottoni) by adding a corresponding nominate (e.g. Tragelaphus strepsiceros ssp. strepsiceros).

But we have nearly 1 thousand cases of ‘single nominates’ (e.g. Tragelaphus strepsiceros ssp. strepsiceros with no corresponding Tragelaphus strepsiceros ssp. cottoni). These can’t really be automatically resolved as someone needs to figure out what a sibling non-nominate would be and add it or swap the nominate into the parent if the parent is indeed monotypic.

In case any curators are looking for more mind-numbing curation tasks during the lockdown, I’ve take the liberty of providing links to these single nominates here. If you fix any please ad a ‘yes’ to the ‘resolved’ column so people know that they’ve already been sorted - and many thanks


Are these mostly cases where the non-autonym taxa exist but have not yet been added?


And if the answer is, we can’t tell, is there a way to mass search the input taxa of past taxon changes for non-autonym infraspecific taxa of the same species, to see if they got swapped into different species (or the same species) and maybe the curator just forgot to deal with the autonym/nominate at the same time?

My guess is that this is how the vast majority of them ended up “orphaned”, and they can just be swapped into their parent species. It would be a pretty unlikely scenario, I think, that a curator would add only a nominate/autonym taxon to a species.

I checked and did about 10 plants just to look at the process. It has resulted in not yet finding a single case where POWO did list other infraspecifics. Oddly I did find 2 where POWO does document the nominate and only the nominate. Not too sure what to make of that or what to do with those.Best guess is there used to be others which have subsequently been accepted as full species etc, but the nominate was not cleaned up.

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My sense is that most of these are orphaned nominates (e.g. all their siblings were elevated to species and their left behind), but I also sense that if alot of observations get coarsened by swapping them into their parents and there were siblings then feathers will be ruffled. So we should probably do some manual due-dilligence on these before swapping up to make sure there’s no obvious siblings, especially if there’s alot of observations and for more ‘charismatic’ species

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@loarie @bobby23 I made a first pass through the handful of mammals and left a few comments.