Subspecies common names on species?

I brought this up once in the Google Group, but didn’t really get any consensus. Setting aside the issue of whether subspecies are valid or not, I think that if iNat has a particular subspecies, the common name for that subspecies should only be on that subspecies and not on the parent species. For example, Coiba Island Howler Monkey is listed as a common name under Alouatta palliata, despite the fact that iNat has the subspecies Alouatta palliata coibensis. I think the common name Coiba Island Howler Monkey should apply only to Alouatta palliata coibensis and should be removed from A. pallliata. Thoughts?

I agree with that for the most part. That species has a mess of common names that appear to only apply to some of the subspecies, and not the species as a whole.

I’m not sure it should be a firm policy, since I’m sure there are some species that should retain certain names for the purposes of familiarity in different regions.


My preference for Alouatta palliata is to remove all the common names except Mantled Howler Monkey. I would first make sure that all the subspecies common names are correctly applied to the subspecies listed, e.g. add Coiba Island Howler Monkey and Coiba Island Howling Monkey to A. p. coibensis before removing them from A. palliata. Does that seem reasonable?


For the English and some of the Spanish names, that makes sense to me.

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I see this on Oenothera elata, which says Hooker’s Evening Primrose even if ssp. hookeri was not suggested.

It was – and maybe still is – rather common in many taxa for the nominotypical subspecies in a species to have the same common name as the species as a whole. (That’s different than the case of the howler monkey example, which seems to be just wrong.) I think the herpetologists have been moving away from that dual use, proposing a different common name for the species vs. any of its subspecies. But mammal common names are still kind of a free-for-all with rather little standardization. It would be great if iNat could contribute to standardization of names in mammals.

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This would still be appropriate, I think, in the circumstance where several species are lumped as subspecies. The receiving species (the one with nomenclatural priority) becomes the nominotypical (botanists also call it autonymic) subspecies in the new expanded concept, but still represents the same organisms as the old, narrower species concept.

I think I understand now. Coiba Island Howler is listed as a possible alternative common name under the species (Mantled Howler) since it is a subspecies of Mantled. But if you look at the subspecies entry on iNat for the subspecies coibensis, there is no common name indicated. The only place that common name seems to appear is in the species account.

I agree that common names, including alternative names, listed in the iNat accounts should apply only to the taxonomic level being discussed … whether it’s a species or subspecies.

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Many of the mammal common names on iNat were pulled directly from IUCN. That’s actually the source of the subspecies common name issue: IUCN lists common names for subspecies in the same field as the species common name within the species account.


I ran into this with the Toque Macaque (Macaca sinica), a Sri Lanka species with three subspecies. I went through and added all the subspecies common names to the appropriate subspecies, then deleted those from the common names list for the species. Hopefully they won’t all return when data is imported from IUCN in the future.