Why does subspecies have less weight in an ID than a species?

I have an observation with three ids: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/67865991
Kingdom Plants
Genus Arnica
Subspecies Arnica lanceolata ssp. prima

With these id’s the observation is labeled as “Genus Arnica”. Why is it not labeled as “Arnica lancelota ssp. prima”?

If the previous 2 ids were not there it would be labeled with the subspecies.

If the 3rd id were just at the species level instead of subspecies it would be labeled with the species.

So it seems like the subspecies has less weight than the species even though it is more specific.

If I later add an id at the species level: Arnica lanceolata, then the observation is labeled at the subspecies level as “Arnica lanceolata ssp. prima”.

Why does this happen?

At the minimum I would think by adding the 3rd id as a subspecies then the label for the observation should at least show the species.

1 Like

It’s set up that way to try to curb inappropriately Research Grade observations at the level of subspecies. It’s not an ideal solution, but they haven’t come up with a better way to do it. See the discussion at this feature request: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/leading-subspecies-ids-should-change-the-obs-taxon-like-leading-ids-of-other-ranks/139


Hmm…so it comes down to: “an issue of how to code it.”

Is there a way to search for all of my observations that have this problem?

In other words, search for all of my observations currently at Genus level or above that also have a subspecies identification?

Perhaps other identifiers are not aware of the characteristics of the spp. They may just being careful, if they do not know the minutiae (or do not agree with it) of that designation. Often that precision of identification is based on a number of variables which are not always available with a photo. I work with moths and other insects, and often the reverse is true - species are lumped into Complexes because they require dissection to tell them apart.

1 Like

I agree that many people do not correctly choose a subspecies when they might have a correct species and many people do not correctly choose a species when they have a proper genus. However, is a different issue.

My concern was more about the technical details regarding the iNaturalist rules. The problem as I understand it is what to do with identifications that are finer than required for research grade.

The current implementation still seems to have some bugs. I did not make it clear in my first post, but when I added the 4th ID to create this sequence:

  1. Kingdom
  2. Genus
  3. Subspecies
  4. Species
    then iNat marked this as “Research Grade” at the subspecies level when it should have been research grade at the species level.


Thanks for that reference. I see, we have “Observation Taxon” and “Community Taxon”. And the label “Research Grade” is placed right next to the Observation Taxon but it is not related to the Observation Taxon; instead it should clearly been linked to the Community Taxon instead. (As someone who worked on computer user interfaces for years…commercial not consumer…I can only say “Arrrrrrgggggghhhhhh!!!”)

A simple movement of the label “Research Grade” to be next to the Community Taxon would have removed the confusion about one of my points. But, at the same time it would have made “Research Grade” a somewhat hidden property and probably would cause a side effect of fewer people making identifications.

Now I’m wondering under what conditions the Observation Taxon is not the same as the Community Taxon.


The Observation Taxon represents the lowest taxon that has been suggested and not explicitly disagreed with. The Community Taxon represents the lowest taxon that is agreed on by two or mor identifiers. So if one person adds an ID of Genus Arnica and someone else adds one of Arnica lanceolata, the Community Taxon would be Genus Arnica while the Observation Taxon is Arnica lanceolata. If a third person then came along and agreed with the ID of A. lanceolata, both the Community Taxon and Observation Taxon would be A. lanceolata (and the observation would be Research Grade). However, if someone else decided it couldn’t be identified to species and added an ID of Genus Arnica with explicit disagreement, the Community Taxon and Observation Taxon would both display Genus Arnica, and the observation would revert to Needs ID.

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.