What's Going on With "Life"?

Yesterday “State of Matter Life” had become “Organisms and Viruses” which was confusing at first. Just got used to that, and today it is back to “Life”.

Please explain?


See the history page for the full juicy drama: https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/48460-Life/history


Ok, thanks. I guess. I don’t really feel enlightened though.


Perhaps iNat should lock that taxon name


It’s the history of life in one confusing table! :)

I don’t understand it, either, but if I can speculate on what has happened, some people (perhaps with their own agendas) have been editing the taxon name, while other people have been trying to reverse those changes. I though someone had to be a curator to have the power to do that on iNaturalist. Some of the people on that list are not; perhaps they had that status at the time, which has now been revoked.

I’m not a curator, so some of those links take me to unexpected pages (along with a banner saying “You don’t have permission to do that”), which makes that page all the more inexplicable.


Life IS confusing.


Technically, viruses are not Life.


anyone can create a common name, only curators can edit, reprioritise or delete them


Generally life is needed for viruses though.

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True. And perhaps more to the point: if we use a cladistic approach to taxonomy, viruses would likely turn out to be a clade within “Life.” As in descended from life. Given that parasites often lose organs that their evolutionary ancestors had, viruses seem to fit the profile of descendants of pathogenic microbes that eventually lost everything but the DNA. This makes more sense than saying that viruses preceded life because that would require a self-replicating viral particle not dependent on the existence of living organisms.

Which raises an interesting question: are Viruses a monophyletic group? When we observe that Canine Transmissible Tumor and Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor had independent origins, it seems within the realm of possibility that unrelated pathogenic microbes could have independently lost everything but their DNA at different times. If that occurred, then Viruses are polyphyletic.


I am a curator and I don’t see any page to create or edit common names for ‘life’? Did the users submit these changes directly via manually editing POST requests or is there a page somewhere I’m missing? Not that I want to edit ‘life’ I’m just curious.

Edit: I successfully guessed the URL of the necessary page to edit it. I am still curious if that page is actually linked from anywhere.


Well I’d imagine Viroids aren’t monophyletic so perhaps not viruses either.