The default taxon photo for Homo sapiens

For many a moon, the default taxon photo for Homo sapiens was a portrait Charles Darwin, but over the last year or two users have changed multiple times to photos depicting other humans from other parts of the world. Which is cool; iNat is a global community, and Darwin isn’t really representative of a lot of people on the planet.

However, I would say I’m personally not a fan of this being to be made into something of an “edit war” - seems like a waste of time and energy, and there’s a possibility that bad blood or hurt feelings can develop over it.

Keeping in mind that this can be a touchy subject and that it’s unlikely everyone will be pleased with any solution, here are a few proposals that have been banging around in my head that might improve (or not, who knows) the default taxon image situation for our own species. Let me know what you think, or if you have any proposals of your own.

  1. iNat obtains a pool of like 12-15 photos (or more, who knows) that depict a diverse sampling of humanity. We then automatically switch the photo every X weeks or every month. We would then lock the photos for Homo sapiens so that no one can edit them.

  2. Similar to the above suggestion, but iNat instead obtains a pool of artistic depictions of humans from multiple cultures. We then automatically switch the photo every X weeks or every month. We would then lock the photos for Homo sapiens so that no one can edit them.

  3. Something generic like a human skull is used as the default image for Homo sapiens, and the ability to change the default photo is locked.

  4. Some really generic, like a warning sign/crosswalk depiction of a human is used as the default image for Homo sapiens, and the ability to change the default photo is locked.

  5. Don’t change anything, this really isn’t a big deal.

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These could then be made into a collage, which could be set as the default photo, and locked as such


I am under the impression Carl Linnaeus, designated by W.T. Stearn in 1959, is the type specimen of Homo sapiens. Therefore a picture or more of Linnaeus could be a suggestion.


Shoot, sorry, I didn’t mean to vote. I hadn’t finished reading all of the options properly.

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Same here - fat fingers on phone! Would vote for 1 above 2 but also feel like any of these 1-4 is an improvement. Please can we have gender balance as well as geographic?


I voted for 3. A skull for example would be neutral in every way possible, but it would also give a good idea for users of what to upload to iNat. Usually Homo sapiens observations are just children taking pictures of themselves to test the app. But let’s say someone finds a human bone in the middle of a forest, that would be a really interesting observation (and possibly informative if that area is known to be abandoned or something).
Also trash in a very remote place could also be a really cool observation, so I change my vote to 6 - a photo of a bag of potato chips. :D


If you tap Hide results, you can change your vote.


I voted 1, but prefer the collage variant as suggested here.


Maybe Carl Linnaeus’ skull then?


Thanks for the feedback, everyone! I’m leaning towards the skull myself.

The issue here is that I think a collage would be pretty much illegible on observation details pages, eg

It’s back to Darwin at the moment, but it’s changed in the last few days. Part of my point.

That would be part of any diverse sampling, for sure. :-)


Yeah, though I think because Linnaeus

it’s not a very meaningful change and wouldn’t help solve the issue at hand, so it’s not one I’d support myself.


Rather than a skull, maybe, perhaps a radiograph (xray) of a subjects head, neck and shoulders. The soft tissue will be visible but the life status, gender, and genetics will be relatively nondescript.


I thought something like Leonardo da Vinci’s human figure in a circle would be cool.

A collage sounds like a good idea, until I start to think how many faces would be needed to represent humanities diversity. The smallest skin tone chart I have ever seen is seven. Then there are 5 eye shapes, 6 nose shapes, 5 lip shapes (in women, didn’t find mention of men), hair colors, and skin blemishes. Maybe a collage of a face made up of different representative parts from different sexes and traits.


good suggestion!

5 then 3 then 2 :)

If three, then show the variations in skulls?

Maybe consider renderings of people who contributed to the fields of taxonomy and evolution … would animal behavior count? as that is part of evolution (thinking Goodall here)

A collage is useless as an icon. I think things like skulls should be reserved for extinct species (we are on our way, but not there yet).

Unless the changing of the default taxon photo is actually causing real problems (performance issues?, fights in the streets?) I wouldn’t actually worry about it.

But if it is actually causing problems (rather than us imagining potential problems), then a rotating pool of images sounds best. Randomly select the image, even once per day, will prevent people from manipulating the order of images in the pool. I would lock the image from being manually changed, but wouldn’t lock the pool of images. I think a quiet word with anyone stacking the pool with their preferences would sort out any abuse.


Can someone please explain to me why we are documenting Homo sapiens at all–much less, photos discarded potato chip bags? We are the species doing the documenting of other species–not ourselves. What I am I missing here?

Collecting information on humans is not a primary focus of the site, at this point I think the distribution of the species is fairly well understood.

As long as they are not offensive, illegal or a threat to safety, the site has elected to allow small numbers of observation of humans to put put on the site, as it is often done by users learning how to use the app etc.

Once identified as human, the records become functionally invisible to site users unless you explicitly choose to search for them.

Intentional misidentifications or records which violate the principles stated above can and do result in account suspension and may at the discretion of site employees be removed.


Human handprint could be nice.


Carl “Carolus” Linnaeus is indeed designated the type specimen for Homo sapiens. There’s been a lot of discussion about that designation globally, but the designation is held up. Definitions don’t mean that he’s the most representative (as that’s not quite what type means). If we’re considering representative more, then there really isn’t a single human who fits that description.

There is, however, another form of collage that might could be worked out and still work as an icon. Instead of using full images, this sort of collage takes parts of other images to create a single face. Some use vertical strips of photos (first photo), others use horizontal strips, and yet others use more of an overlay at the corners (second photo). These also work rather well at displaying a range of human diversity (the first in particular obviously includes men and women together).

If an existing collage were to be licensed so it can be used on iNat, that would be an easy option. Or one could be made from existing CC-BY-SA photos, maybe using a black-and-white image of Linnaeus as the central image.

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