Species names with spelling errors - curation guidelines

I’m unaware of any guidelines on this, if they exist, can you please point them out to me.

It seems to be a not infrequent issue coming up on flags and taxa management regarding cases where a user believes a species latin name violates nomenclature rules.

There seem to be 2 different approaches that get taken:

  • if the presumed error is the one used at reference sources, especially in cases where the family has a defined reference, that the error be the name used on the site, so to ensure links, feeds etc work
  • that an error is an error, and must be corrected, and therefore change the name to and use what the nomenclature rules say should apply.

Is there any direction from the admins on what the approach that should be used is, and can then this be added to the curators guide ?

Yes I know that the nomenclature rules are horribly complex, and that the old rule about if you ask for how they are applied and lock 5 nomenclature experts in a room for 2 days they will emerge with 8 different answers. But some general guidelines would be helpful.

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There are valid latin binomials that violate nomenclatural guidelines because the species author didn’t follow them, for whatever reason. Sometimes these are ‘corrected’ in later literature but others are left as they are. It’s not our role to police the rules of nomenclature - only to determine what the currently valid name is, according to the authority iNat follows for the taxon. For many taxonomic groups this is straightforward (POWO for vascular plants, Fishbase for fishes etc.) but for others, where no online authority has been accepted, it’s not so . In these cases the spelling most often used in recent literature would seem to be the appropriate choice, I think.


i am thinking if it is a common error (common enough that it shows up in literature) it should be added to the taxa as a ‘nonvalid name’

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That is essentially what happens, isn’t it? They get merged as synonyms and if you enter the misspelt name it pops up the correct version - e.g. if I try to put in Drosera spathulata it directs me to D. spatulata.


Glad to hear you say that - new to curation here and had worked out that merging as a synonym seemed to be the best approach to maintain all associated data for a mis-spelt name. Some guidance on handling common problems would be great! The other thing I keep coming across is plant species not attached to their families, I think when imported via an EoL search. Figured this out but again felt a bit too much like guesswork.