Track and view changes to taxon photos

Hi. This request was based on this Flag, as well as a number of disputes that have occured over taxon photos.

I would really appreciate it if there was some way we could track and see who makes changes to Taxon Photos.

I apologize if this seems managerial or entitled, and I cannot speak for everyone else, but I have poured countless hours trying to find aesthetically-pleasing and accurate depictions of taxa on iNaturalist. I consider this a curatorial duty. There are no objective measures for what counts as a “good” photo, but I try to find default photos that reflect real-world guidebooks or museum displays. The animal’s entire body should fall within the frame; the resolution should be high-enough that the photo looks nice regardless of where it is used (be it on the website, app, Seek, etc.); the composition accents key characteristics for identification; accurate color composition; etc. I also think it’s nice if there is some unified composition between related taxa. i.e. all terrestrial artiodactyls have their full body in the frame, and most of them are depicted at side or semi-side profiles. No head-shots, awkward angles, or the like. Secondary photos should highlight morphic variations, stages of development (eggs, larvae, juveniles, etc.) and discrete identification traits. I try to avoid adding a lot of photos for a species just to reach the “12 photo limit”. It is gratuitous and could be overwhelming for iNat users in the field, where it is unclear what one should be looking for to make an ID.

I have put a lot of work into finding good photos for the species on iNaturalist and take personal attachment into how the branches of the tree I manage - cephalopods and vertebrates - are presented. I have gotten into edit wars with unknown users who insist that “their” photo is better when the composition is lacking, the angles are awkward, the animal is dead, the species is incorrect, etc. It can be frustrating or disheartening to put this much effort into something and then have to fight to keep it.

I’m sure these other users have good intentions, but it would at least be nice to see who are making these revisions so that we can reach out to them and maybe have discourse as to why they want the default taxon photo changed.

Not sure how others feel.

EDIT: As specified by @vynbos, @jonathan142 et al. below, there is an arguably more pressing issue where users have assigned default photos to the incorrect taxon. This is another serious problem that affects plants and arthropods in particular. Additionally, unlike large vertebrates, many of these taxa are ID’d based on discrete characteristics that are sometimes not reflected in the default photo.

i would really appreciate a feature like this. one millipede species i am constantly working on fixing misidentifications for has repeatedly gotten entirely wrong species as the taxon photos! i wish i could ask people to not do that but so far there is no way to do so


I would like to see location specific taxon photos: a typically Australian example of a mammal/lizard/spider/daisy is different to a typically Peruvian one. That might sort out some of the tensions. There are other tension though: I am not at all interested in aesthetically pleasing default images. I want the default image of a taxon to cram as much ID info as possible into it. So I don’t want a close-up of a daisy flowerhead (which is often the least useful part of a daisy for IDing) but I want to see leaves and bracts too. I know one can add other photos to a taxon, but on the species browsing page one can only see the default image. Which adds another problem with the concept of one default photo per taxon: it wold be useful if one could switch in the species browser page between seeing default images of, for example in Lepidoptera, the adults (if one wants to see the moths) or larvae if one wants to see the caterpillars.


This would certainly be useful with Hymenoptera as well, where I’ve tried to do quite similar. I keep having to go back through several species that keep getting misidentified Flickr and Wikimedia* images added to them (largely at the species and genus level). I mean, blatantly misidentified. Others that keep being added, especially within Ichneumonidae, had been simply unidentifiable or not representative of that taxon as a whole (here, separation from Braconidae often requires wing venation, and I’ve long lost a zoomed-in photo of this trait). Still others are over unceremonious removal of regional forms that should be displayed secondarily (such as the yellow-waisted form of Sceliphron caementarium prominent in the southwestern US that differs from the form introduced rather globally).

I also know that the Homo sapiens taxon keeps having issues with edit wars every few months (the most recent I’ve seen was just earlier this month), and there had been requests to be able to lock taxon photos (by taxon curators) - though I don’t think that request ever went too far.

* As a side note, the photo that had long been used as the infobox image for the genus Podalonia throughout Wikipedia was a member of an entirely different tribe. At some point, this had been imported to iNaturalist as one of our own default photos. I’m particularly hoping that this fix stays fixed as this one had a lot more time invested than some others.

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A possibility is to allow anyone to add a photo, but only curators can remove or replace photo(s).


It would be useful to get a notice.
If anything changes in the pictures the whole ID may change.
But users should be allow to add and remove.

The feature request mentions taxon page, not observation pages. The issue of changing observation photos has been raised before :)


Another problematic example:
After this discussion in the link someone added two even less appropriate photos (first ones), one of which probably of another species.

Considering that this issue was pointed out here two years ago I will not edit taxon photos again, it is clearly not appreciated.

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I would also like to join in this request. In the last few days someone is messing up with the pictures of the most observed species in Argentina, resulting in broken images or selecting ones which are worse than those previously selected (they fall out of frame, over saturated colors, etc).


I agree with the sentiment above. It is very frustrating to put effort in updating photos for a taxa only to have some constantly changing the photos when the photo they are using is from Flickr or Wikimedia and isn’t even the correct taxa.

There needs to be a way to atleast track who is making the changes.


Made a github issue since we now have a taxon history framework.


Out of votes, but supporting.
Though it’s unnecessary, probably, since there’s already a github.

This is now live.

Note that it only records changes to photos since we implemented the feature (literally minutes ago), so past taxon photo changes will not show in the taxon’s history.

We also added some guidelines for taxon photos when disputes happen:

Let me know if you find any bugs.


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