What's the point of having "ssp" in scientific names on iNat?

I have been wondering why “ssp” is included before subspecies name(s) on iNat.
I think it is not needed at all and it only makes it inconvinient to copy and paste scientific names.
For example
Columba livia ssp. domestica
Are there any reasons for this? If not I will request removing the “ssp”.


Agreed. I wonder if it’s related to plant taxonomy where subspecies and variety have to be identified. Not needed for animals.


When feral pigeons became ssp instead of variety?
I think the ssp is also added for novice users who may be confused why taxon has 3 words too.


It may make copying and pasting on iNaturalist harder, but it makes searching in other databases easier. Honestly, I think the real problem is that you can’t type in the name with the “ssp.” or “var.” in iNaturalist and get the taxon requested.


Taxonomy for taxa other than animals can use quite a few different types of names below species rank (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infraspecific_name) so I think it’s clearest that “ssp.” is retained across iNat.

(I agree that it’s a bit of an annoyance that we need to remove the “ssp.” and “var.” to get taxon searches to work in iNat.)


It’s probably to clearly distinguish subspecies from species because many people aren’t initially familiar with trinomial nomenclature, and nominate subspecies could be mistaken for a species with the epithet accidentally listed twice. I agree that it’s harder to copy and paste, because the “ssp.” part prevents matches from displaying when pasting the full name into the search bar.


In the interest of diversity, I’m irritated that it is “ssp.” rather than “subsp.” :-) I’d rather ICNafp switch to a single infraspecific rank, though.


I’ve seen both ssp. (sspp. plural) and subsp. used in science articles. ssp. seems preferable for a website because it’s shorter and takes up less space.


In botany, we use both subspecies and variety names within species.

Pinus contorta var. latifolia (Lodgepole Pine)
Camassia leichtlini ssp. suksdorfii (a beautiful, blue-flowered Camas)

Therefore, we need to use ssp. or var. each time we use one of these names to indicate whether we are talking about a variety or a subspecies.

I assume iNaturalist is using ssp. with animal species to be consistent among all scientific names.


The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants prefers subsp. as the abbrevation, but I can see why ssp. works better in many places in the iNat UI.

Recommendation 5A

5A.1. For purposes of standardization, the following abbreviations are recommended: cl. (class), ord. (order), fam. (family), tr. (tribe), gen. (genus), sect. (section), ser. (series), sp. (species), var. (variety), f. (forma). The abbreviations for additional ranks created by the addition of the prefix sub-, or for nothotaxa with the prefix notho-, should be formed by adding the prefixes, e.g. subsp. (subspecies), nothosp. (nothospecies), but subg. (subgenus) not “subgen.”


I think the search function should be updated to allow for it: it seems to me that the site should be able to use its own formatting when searching, and if you’re new it’s not intuitive as to why it’s not working.


Thanks all. I get it now.
Apparently, what we need is to make name search in iNat possible with ssp. or var. in scientific names.


I think this existing feature request (from a while ago that hasn’t received much attention) addresses the issue being discussed.


What’s particularly odd in this specific case is that no taxonomic organization I’m aware of recognizes C. l. “domestica” as a valid subspecies anymore. The feral birds, for example, in North America are generally considered to be C. l. livia.

The name domestica is probably only useful to distinguish feral birds derived from domestic breeds where more than one natural subspecies may have been involved in past captive breeding. Which might include all, but we probably don’t know.


Keep in mind some animals use non-subspecies too, besides variants, e.g. Entomobrya clitellaria f. nigrita. I am on the side of removing “ssp.” though, it should be the default. I think the others should stay for when they’re being used, and it should be understood that otherwise the third nomen represents a subspecies designation, as to my understanding it’s usually the default in taxonomy.
For example: the springtail’s name would remain the same, but Camponotus suffusus ssp. bendigensis would just be Camponotus suffusus bendigensis.
I also think it may be worth having something that says “sensu lato” next to species’ names (of those with subspecies) to avoid confusion between the broad name and type subspecies. I’m not sure the best way to implement this without it looking too intrusive though. For now, it should probably just be expected that people understand the difference if they care enough. If this were to be implemented, I would recommend it being used to differentiate complexes and species, too, rather than the “Complex” title. Problems with this would be: a) we still don’t have species groups as a taxon, b) it’s possible there could be a complex named after a species, and that species could have subspecies, in which even more latin abbreviations would be needed. So yeah…probably not the greatest for now.

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That’s the default in animal taxonomy. It’s not the default in plant taxonomy.


In botany, is it simply incorrect to not specify what the third nomen represents then, or is there another default? I feel like I’ve seen trinomial plant names mentioned without any specification in papers before.

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I usually see ssp.


The problem is that both subspecies (ssp. or subsp.) and variety (var.) are have taxonomic status. More or less equal taxonomic status*. I’m sure you’ve seen cases where the abbreviation is omitted – I’ve omitted it myself, occasionally – but that’s done only in very informal communications, and it can lead to confusion, misinterpretation. Omitting them is not good practice and not accepted.

  • – I know they’re not the same! But I’m trying to communicate with zoologists here.