Taxon History is now live

Hey everyone,

We added a new Taxon History functionality to iNaturalist a few days ago, as a way to improve transparency and accountability when users edit things like conservation statuses and add/edit/remove taxon names. Some of you have come across it, but I wanted to give a brief overview of it - sorry for the delay on this post.

For the below examples, I’m using Phaethon rubricauda. All of my screenshots are from our staff-only test server, so you won’t see these specific changes on the actual public site.


If you go to any taxon page and click on Curation, you’ll now see a “History” option:

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That will take you to the taxon’s history page, which shows changes to the taxon in reverse chronological order.

Concurrently, we also added an optional Note field in a few places for users to explain their changes, eg when you add a name or edit a taxon, you’ll see something like this:

So the Taxon History page will show not only the changes, but any explanatory note included with the change. I highly encourage everyone to include explanations when making changes.

For example, here’s what it looks like when I added example tropicbird name as a new name:

You’ll see when the name was added, a link to the name, who added it, various details about the name, and what I wrote for the Note section.


Curators can not only add or edit common names, they can edit other aspects of a taxon, like conservation statuses, wikipedia entries, etc.

Here’s an example of what the Taxon History looks like after I both updated the Wikipedia link for the species and added a new conservation status. The new state is in green while the previous state is in white.

It looks a little weird because the Note only shows up on one of the updates, but you’ll see they were made at the same time. Please make sure your Note covers all changes you made before saving.

Curators can also change the order of common names, and when you do that things can get a bit funky, since moving a name in the order creates a ton of changes (many or all of the other names’ positions change). Which is a “Save Changes” button appears after any change in order has been made:

When you click on that button, it creates quite a few records on the Taxon History page. Here’s a partial screenshot of those changes on the Taxon History page:

So it’s a bit messy but should still allow anyone to see which changes were made, when they were made, and by whom.


Also, if you mouseover the a few items, like the Record, User, etc you’ll see a magnifying glass:

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Clicking on that will filter the taxon history by that value, so you can see all updates associated with it.

Taxon History currently covers most of the changes which can be made to a taxon, although a few (like default photo edits) are not recorded as yet. And note that changes prior to the launch of Taxon History are not included.

If you find any bugs, please make a new topic in #bug-reports.

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Is there a reason adding a note wasn’t made mandatory?

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Does it also show who changed taxon images? Ive seen taxon images beeing repeatedly changed to a wrong species, but couldnt find out who was behind it.

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Good question. Seems like it should be mandatory.

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No, it doesn’t. I addressed this in the original post, although perhaps “default photo edits” wasn’t clearly defined.

I’m definitely for recording those, though.

No specific reason. We’ll see how it goes with it being an option (which it wasn’t before) and not mandatory. If an individual has a pattern of making lots of changes without adding explanations it will now be easy to determine (just click on their username on a Taxon History page to see their recorded changes). Now we’ll have some data on taxon updates and can see if notes should be mandatory.

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thank you for the new feature!

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Can you also add a note about deleting a name? I can’t see how to do this

You can delete a common name with the following steps: Find the list of common names in the Taxonomy section of the taxon page. Click the “Edit” link to the right of the name you want to delete. This brings up an “Editing Taxon Name” page. At the bottom of the left column, there’s a text area called Note to enter your reason for making the change. Below that are Save/Cancel/Delete buttons. “Delete” will delete that name. (Be sure to enter a reason!)

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The issue is that after entering a note and pressing delete, the note does not seem to be saved. If you add a note, then press save, it is saved as a stand alone note, and then you can press edit again and delete, but this was not clear in advance so is likely to lead to unsaved notes. And you don’t seem to be able to add a note on the history page after performing an action? See https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/730693/history where I created a new name with a note, and then deleted with a note that was not saved, created again, saved a note separately as an update to the name and then deleted as a separate action

Hi, I’m just wondering what “best practice” for adding or not adding a note is when creating a taxon. For example, I just created a taxon and I manually cited the source twice (first in the create taxon “source”, second the same source in the taxonomy details relationship) and then again in the “note”. Is it necessary to do this 3 times, or can the note be omitted if the first two are done? Edit: actually, I just checked and I didn’t cite the source a third time in the “note” because I’d done it twice already at the locations previously specified, but can do so in future if that’s what’s expected.

Because, as far as I can tell so far, changes are for the most part obvious or associated with flags (which serve as documentation anyway)?

Let’s take this as an example: https://inaturalist.ala.org.au/taxa/1362564/history

I created Macroptilium psammodes and created the link for the taxon framework (i.e. added citations twice). After that I added the synonyms and created a note for each (both notes were “Synonym”). But only one of those notes is in the history. I don’t understand how I can add two names (synonyms) at the same time and attach a note to each, but perhaps I’m missing something obvious.

Edit: perhaps I forgot to add the note for the first syn. I added, I don’t know. I’ve added the note now and the history reflects this now but is the note “adding” anything? Edit2: How do I add two synonyms/names at once with the same note? And is that necessary?

I’d worry less about taxon creation and more about edits to taxa that exist - especially surrounding adding/editing/deleting conservation statuses and making changes to names.

I don’t understand how I can add two names (synonyms) at the same time and attach a note to each, but perhaps I’m missing something obvious.

As noted above, you’re only allowed one note when you save changes to a taxon from the Edit Taxon page, and the note only appears with one of the changes. But they all show as being saved at the same time, so it should be easy for anyone to see multiple changes were made before saving.

So either write a note that addresses all the changes you made before saving, or just make one change before saving. I think the former is fine.

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Thanks Tony, that makes sense. The ‘notes’ and history are very useful by the way; I’ve already relied on the history once in relation to a common name change and it made things much easier. I’m guessing that the history is also viewable by all users so that adds value as well (e.g. everyone can see who added/changed a conservation status and why – if the person who made the change added the note (hopefully they did)

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It appears that this is only prospective changes. Whenever I check it gives me the message “History was introduced in February 2022, so no history is available prior to that date.”

It would also be good to be able to search on all changes a person (i.e. myself) had made.

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Yes, I noted this in the original post here:

Previous taxon history just isn’t available.

You can do that within a taxon, but you’re asking for the ability to see all taxon history records attributed to a user regardless of taxon?

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[Feature Request] @tiwane

Right now, deleted common names in history do not show who added the common name that has since been deleted. The curator who deletes the name is the last person to see who added the deletion-worthy common name; no user can see which account it was after the name is deleted. I think who added common names that have been deleted should remain in History – this can help catch users who repeatedly add personally-invented, false, or trolling common names before they’re flagged, and that evidence of a pattern exists. On the other hand, it would also provide the chance for other users to reach out to people who’ve added deleted common names to ask for sources and potentially reverse the accidental deletion of legitimate common names.

Example - from American Goldfinch. I deleted an invented common name, and the user who added it initially did it again a day later. Other users have no way of knowing who added the name initially from its name deletion entry in the history.

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Is the Taxon History the reason why vertebrae taxa were unlocked? That way, if someone messes up, we know who did it? And what does that mean for birds which still needs to update 2 years of taxonomic changes? Everything was done, we just needed the taxon curator to start committing changes. Can we start doing that or will that mess up the half year’s work we’ve done getting ready to make these changes?

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I vote to proceed with the changes. None are controversial, all are following Clements, it’s just that the taxon curator isn’t responding. Best to just go ahead with them or they’ll never be done.

That sounds like a majority vote. I have own thread discussing that problem but so far, only people who believe locked taxa is an out-of-date concept have commented, so I still haven’t received a high-up response yet. Right now, I’m primarily focused on working on flags (most of which are requesting hybrid additions) and once that’s done, I’m going to the taxon framework and adding relationships to the 900+ taxa without one, so at this moment, we don’t know if those taxa are in compliance of Clements or not because the curators making those taxa are not adding relationships.