The `iconic_taxa` parameter from the iNaturalist API is giving incorrect results for Animalia

When you use the parameter iconic_taxa=Animalia with the iNat API you get results that are only certain types of invertebrates. As far as I can tell it’s returning only animals that don’t fit into the other iconic taxa (birds, ray finned fish, reptiles, amphibians, arachnids, insects, mammals, molluscs). Is this the intended behavior? Because it’s not what you would expect when searching for Animalia.

check this example

Results are 2, fairy shrimp and leeches. Change the taxa to mammals ( and you get 16 results.

Try it over a major city and it might be more obvious, this is over Orlando, FL.

Results are 48: lamprey, flatworms, segmented worms, shrimp, springtails, centipedes, etc.

If you change it to accept all other animal taxa you get 2008 results.

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Some parts of iNat use Animalia to truly mean Animalia, but many parts of the site use it to mean Animal minus the other iconic taxa categories. So I would guess this is intentional.

This is nonintuitive intentional behavior. If that’s the case I’d recommend making that clear in the documentation. Right now the docs say this using this parameter means the result are within that taxon, this is really more or an non-iconic-animalia search than an animalia search

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I’m not one of the developers so this is just my personal take, but it doesn’t say “within this taxon”, it says “within this iconic taxon”. Through most of the site, the iconic taxon Animalia only includes things which are not in the other iconic taxa, e.g. If you want the broad definition of Animalia, you can always use its taxon id:


I find it strange to define ‘iconic taxon’ differently than ‘taxon’, whether from a scientific, software, or linguistic perspective. Stating what the website’s definition of ‘iconic taxon’ is would improve the documentation… maybe it is somewhere, but I haven’t found it.

Yes the documentation should be improved. As far as I can tell it’s the field that’s used to decide what icon (iconic) a taxon gets in maps and other symbologic uses (like the colors on the pie charts in year in review). I would assume they’re mutually exclusive because you can’t have multiple symbols for a given taxon, and any situation where you would need the behavior you were expecting is already handled by using the taxon id for Animalia. (“taxon_id=1” instead of “iconic_taxa=Animalia”).

That’s interesting, thanks.