When typing a scientific name in the identification box, it prioritises results where my query matches a common name in a different language, over results where my query matches the scientific name or a common name in my locale

Platform (Android, iOS, Website): Website

Browser, if a website issue (Firefox, Chrome, etc) : Firefox

URLs (aka web addresses) of any relevant observations or pages: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify

Screenshots of what you are seeing (instructions for taking a screenshot on computers and mobile devices: https://www.take-a-screenshot.org/):

With the name display order set to Scientific Name (Common Name):

With the name display order to set Scientific Name:

Description of problem (please provide a set of steps we can use to replicate the issue, and make as many as you need.):

Step 1: Click on an observation in the Identify view and go to identify it.

Step 2: In the “Search Species” box, type the first three letters of each word in a chosen scientific name (e.g. “tra sil” for Tradescantia sillamontana).

Step 3: Look at the names of the species offered in the results. The top matches are species whose scientific names don’t match the query, but whose common names do match it.

The common names in the screenshots are in languages that don’t match my chosen locale. In the second screenshot, I tried switching the name display order from Scientific Name (Common Name) to just Scientific Name, to see if that would force it to disregard common names - but it had no effect.

I’m not sure whether this should count as a bug or a feature request. Obviously the species showing up in the list do match the query, but the search seems to be prioritising the wrong fields when ordering the list. It would make sense to show matches for the scientific name and/or common names in the user’s chosen locale first in the list, before showing matches for common names in other languages.


That works in the example I gave because none of the common names share those letters, but there are other cases where there are more shared letters in the names. For example, “tra spa” for Tradescantia spathacea gives:

But adding a letter “tra spat” has the same result:

Edit: Or for an even more extreme example, you can get all the way to typing “tra virgini” before getting Tradescantia virginiana at the top of the list:


It does the same thing for taxa that were changed a decade or two ago. Cnemidophorus was split creating Aspidoscelis in the Central and North America with Cnemidophorus restricted to South America. When I want to get to ANY Cnemidophorus I must type in at least the entire genus name just to get anything other than the genus to be suggested. I agree, the prioritization of names here seems to be off.


Yes, there are workarounds - but it’s quite frustrating to have to write out a lot more of the name every time just to skip past results which are much less relevant!

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For better or worse, the identification box (and its typing shortcuts) is designed to work with both scientific names and common names, and it won’t know which kind of name the user intends ahead of time, and therefore which ones to prioritize. I’m guessing most iNat users prefer to look things up by common name.

So yes, I think this is not a bug, and probably a feature request to prioritize name search results based on your account settings for scientific vs. common name preference and locale - although I don’t know how technically feasible that will be. (Maybe throw in the ability to sort results by taxonomic rank while you are at it!)

I’m going to take this out of Bug Reports for now. If you want to pursue a Feature Request, please submit using the template for that Forum category.


traD instead of tra

Did you see petezani’s example that requires writing out the entire genus in order to get the intended result?

Since there’s an existing feature request for this issue, I think it makes sense to focus the conversation there: forum.inaturalist.org/t/prioritize-scientific-name-over-synonym-and-names-in-other-languages-in-species-search/23191

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