What to do about agreed-upon placeholder binomials?

Today I observed a gall midge on Smilax: Genus Meunieriella from Greenville, NC, USA on August 25, 2023
Now, the reason I have it identified only to genus is not because I don’t know the species. I have found the species on several platforms.
Here it is on BugGuide.
Here it is on Gallformers.
And on Jungle Dragon.
All three of these platforms agree in referring to it as Meunieriella on-smilax. The problem is that this is a “placeholder” binomial; all three of these platforms also agree that it is an undescribed species. So, here is the problem I foresee: when this species is eventually described, we will want to update iNat observations of it with the published binomial. But if they are all identified only to genus, this does not leave an efficient means of sorting Meunieriella on-smilax from other Meunieriella not identified to species. What are some possible solutions to this? Could iNat add the “placeholder” binomial agreed-upon by those other sites, pending the official binomial?

In the meantime, I will add the “Host Plant” observation field to my observation, so that at least we have that possible means of knowing that this Meunieriella observation is on-smilax.

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In Europe there’s a similar situation - an undescribed harvestman that’s known as “Leiobunum sp. a”, it used to have a taxon page but that got removed because it’s not described (it sort of was, but it was never given a name) - now observations with this species get put as the genus and then tagged as “sp. A” with this observation field.

You could try asking the field’s maker if they can add that placeholder. It’s clearly a “recognised” species, just not one with a Latin name, and if it works for the harvestman, I don’t know why it wouldn’t for the midge.

There are also a few projects collecting observations of undescribed species:

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A Tag seems like it could be useful for this as well, and wouldn’t depend on the curator of a placeholder Observation field to update all the possible placeholder binomials.

They’re a little less “formal” than an Observation field, but still searchable and if you use the exact binomial it should narrow it down quite easily.

There’s a “Gallformers Code” category you can put in the Observation Fields, then you can just add the code
The page on Gallformers also has a link that automatically takes you to the iNat observations with that code


I am looking at the Gallformers page for that taxon, and I see neither a code nor an iNat link; only a BugGuide link. It is the same page I linked in my OP.

The codes are at the bottom of a Gallformers page, under the “See Also” heading. The one you’re looking for is “on-smilax.”

In general, I think one should identify undescribed species as the genus they belong to or the species everybody has been calling it (though now we know it’s different) because anybody watching this taxonomy will know where to look for it once it’s published.

Adding it to the project https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/undescribed-species-on-inaturalist-umbrella is also a very good idea, but it’s easier to forget.

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Officially, since we are not allowed to create “preliminary taxon” pages as BugGuide and other sites can, your only solution is to use fields to categorize them. Otherwise, you just have to settle at the nearest taxon level (usually genus, or complex, or if you really feel it, the species yet to be split).

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Okay, once I figured out that the iNaturalist logo at the bottom o the page was, in fact, the link that @neontetraploid was referring to, I followed it and noticed that there were only a few observations with that observation field. So, I just finished going through a bunch of genus-level Meunieriella observations – ascending order, oldest first – and adding that field if I could discern that it was the right genus and was on-smilax. So now there should be a whole bunch more. In this process, I did not come across any that already had it.


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