What to do when species are not in the iNaturalist database

I have encountered a number of species that I have identified correctly but are not in iNaturalist’s database. I have included links verifying the identification only to have my identification overridden by some broad category and eliminating the correct genus and species identification I have provided. While iNaturalist does indeed have an extensive database it is not inclusive of many new species that have been published by scientists recognized as expert in their respective fields. This is very much the case in Colombia where I report from. This aspect of the site is tremendously aggravating and makes one disinclined to bother waisting time trying to add new species one finds and correctly identifies if they are not already in the database. I think by not allowing new species to be introduced iNaturalist is shooting it’s self in the foot.

@P-Hoell I approved your topic in the General category, since it describes a general condition on iNaturalist and not a specific functionality request.

You are correct that the iNaturalist taxonomic database is incomplete, and it always will be. But we definitely allow new species to be added, and do our best to keep up with the taxonomy needed to support new observations. We certainly want to accommodate yours too!

There are several ways to get new taxa added to iNaturalist:

  1. When you type in a name that doesn’t exist in iNaturalist, you will see a link for Search External Name Providers. Try that first and see if the name can be found in an external taxonomic database. If it is, you can add it to iNaturalist and use it right away.

  2. You can also try doing that from this search page.

  3. If you type in a name, but a different name choice is displayed, that means that the name you want is currently a synonym of another iNaturalist taxon. If you can accept the synonym, then please use that. If you believe the synonym is incorrect, then see the next option.

If you still can’t find the taxon you want, it may be a newer name, or otherwise has not yet been incorporated into existing sources used by iNaturalist. In that case:

  • Choose the next higher taxon (Genus, Family, subgenus, etc.) available in iNaturalist.
  • Temporarily identify your observation at that level, and include what you believe to be the correct name as part of the observation description, or in a Tag on the observation. These will be the easiest places to search for it later (as opposed to comments or fields).
  • Visit the taxon page for the higher taxon you selected by clicking on the taxon icon.
  • At right, click on Curation, and select Flag for Curation. Type in a brief request, like “Please add Taxon x”, then click Flag it!
  • At the top of the page you will see a link to the flag you just created. Click to open the flag, and add a comment with any additional supporting source information for the taxon you want to add. (Links to online sources are most helpful).
  • Flags will be addressed by the crew of volunteer curators on iNaturalist as soon as they are able. If you have a more urgent need, or a very long list of new taxa, you can try sending it directly to help@inaturalist.org to see if another avenue is possible.
  • After the new name becomes available in iNaturalist, you can search for your observations with descriptions or tags containing the new name, and update the IDs using the new name.

Thank you for your contributions to iNaturalist, and I look forward to seeing many more!


I see the issue, if this is a current example: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/30876703

Although you put a “Placeholder” with your identified species name, the system does not see it properly in the taxon database and marks it “Unknown”. It falls into a limbo where people who care cannot find it.

People who help fix observations in this limbo area will give them a more general “starter” label so that they can be seen and carried forward by more knowledgeable identifiers. Optimally, they will record the “placeholder” field in a comment, so that someone following jdmore’s advice can match the placeholder with the correct future taxon.


To continue this point: If, instead of putting in your ID in as a placeholder, you put it into a description or in a comment after you’ve posted the observation, then it won’t disappear no matter what other people do with the ID.


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