"Suggest an ID" box - differentiating species complexes and species with the same name?

[The title of this post was edited by another user. I’m not sure it helped, but I don’t want to sidetrack the discussion. Anyway, go by the body of the post, not so much the title.]

This may or may not be a “bug” per se. If it’s not, feel free to move it to a more appropriate forum.

Recently, someone relatively new to butterflies suggested an ID of Burnsius oileus, which was a misidentification. I wanted to suggest that they change their ID to the iNat taxon “Complex Burnsius communis,” which is a complex of species including B. communis.

I felt frustrated that there is nothing they could type into the “suggest an ID” field that would cause it to show only the species complex instead of showing both the complex and the species proper. I want it to be as easy as possible for someone who knows nothing about butterflies to change their ID to the species complex, without me having use the “suggest an ID” box myself, and without the species proper also popping up and potentially confusing or misleading them.

I fully realize that I could use the “suggest an ID” box myself to suggest an ID. My preference is not to do so, but even if I did, there should be something you could type in that would cause only the species complex to display and not also display the species proper.

I also feel frustrated that, even though the iNat’s name for the taxon is “Complex Burnsius communis,” typing the words in that order fails to bring up the taxon. You have to type the words in a different order (Burnsius communis complex) for the “suggest an ID” box to recognize it.

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I moved this to General since I’m pretty sure there isn’t a bug - but can you provide screenshots of what you are seeing? Feel free to update the title if my edit didn’t clarify the issue you’re mentioning.

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I agree that screenshots would be helpful here.

If I enter, “Burnsius communis” without complex, the top two choices are
Complex Burnsius communis and
Burnsius communis

This seems to be working well, especially as the Complex is suggested first.

I think part of the issue is that “Complex” isn’t part of the taxon name - it’s a rank. It just displays with “Complex” first to distinguish it from the species. It would be akin to searching for “Genus Burnsius” which also doesn’t return anything. Complexes are always going to be somewhat messy, but they are supported because of their utility in certain situations.

I guess it could be useful is searching for “Complex Burnsius communis” to return the complex (instead of nothing), but I would also want that search to return the species as well, so users were aware that it was a choice.


People often add a common name with the word complex, which might help with this issue. Although I don’t know if that really counts as a common name.

start typing “Common Checkered-Skipper and Allies”

I understand what you’re seeing but I’ve never considered it a problem. I view it as allowing the species ID while reminding us that there may be a problem that could be solved by using the complex instead.

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I have this issue sometimes when trying to pick complexes that lack common names. I think the problem is that complexes without common names show “complex” (species don’t do this, though genus, tribe, family etc do):

But if you put “complex” in the suggestions, it doesn’t then show up:


Yes, every level other than species and subspecies does this, but you’re not likely to type “Tribe Veroniceae” because there’s no other Veroniceae on any other level to muddle it with… but you’re much more likely to want, say, Veronica hederifolia (the complex) over Veronica hederifolia (the species) - they have the same name, so my brain goes “ah, yes, I want the complex, not the species, so I’ll type ‘complex’, huh, where is it?” (except in my case, not with speedwells, because I can barely identify them, I usually leave those to genus and let the people who know what they’re doing with them have at them).

Hopefully this isn’t off-topic, but I see something similar with subspecies. An example is with Strawberry Cactus (Echinocereus enneacanthus). In Texas we have the subspecies Echinocereus enneacanthus carnosus. Because the name is so long and my spelling is atroshiss, I’d rather copy it from a previous Research Grade observation. Unfortunately, the “suggested an ID” name on the observation page is “Echinocereus enneacanthus ssp. carnosus”, and pasting that into the “Suggest an Identification” box doesn’t pull up a hit. I can backspace over the “ssp.” to get the entry, but that prompts the question: why does ssp need to be in that name? Or, why are there two monikers for the same cactus? Is one of the formats more preferred from a scientific perspective?

I’d type this to find it quick

(see also this feature request https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/find-taxa-when-you-type-ranks-like-subsp-var-etc/3989)


ec en ca
find your shortest route to trigger the right autocomplete
Once you have the sp you can also add ‘ca’

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Thank you so much. Makes good sense.

Can you tell me why those names have to be different, i.e., why does one have ssp and the other not?

I appreciate the help and link.