Wrong or unusual German common names

I have just entered my first 6 obs and noticed that 2 of the German common names are at least not common (Harmonia axyridis) or factually incorrect (Myocastor coypus is not a rat). Is there a way to request a correction?
Using the common names from German Wikipedia might be a good idea.



iNaturalist’s taxonomy is maintained by our site curators. If you find an issue with a taxon, it’s best to go to that taxon’s page on our website and flag it for curation by clicking on “Curation” (under the graphs) and selecting “Flag for curation”. You can then write a short note and our curators will see it.


Well, Wikipedia lists both “Harlekin-MarienkĂ€fer” and “Biberratte” as common names for the taxa in question, even if these are not the names used in the title of the entry.

It also isn’t unusual for VulgĂ€rnamen to be taxonomically inaccurate – people call things by analogy with what they know, and Myocastor coypus is both a rodent and has a general resemblance to a very large rat. This is a different issue than whether the name in question is in fact used or not.

You can add additional vernacular names yourself if the ones you are familiar with are missing, although I think only curators can choose which one is given priority on taxon pages.

With German there is the complication of pluricentrism (multiple “standard” varieties of the language) and regional/dialectal variation – the most commonly used name in one region may not be the same everywhere. This applies just as much to animals as it does to pastries or certain vegetables (what do you call Vicia faba? or the root vegetable Brassica napus?).

For what it’s worth, “Nutria” is what Myocastor coypus is known as in the area where I live, but “Biberratte” doesn’t strike me as particularly odd.


This is a chronic problem in English as well. The US Department of Agriculture makes up names for many plants without actual common names. Many of these are absurd and/or wrong and nobody uses them. But they get perpetuated on nursery websites, so Google searches make it look like they are in widespread use. In some of the ones I’m familiar with, they actually do have common names in Hawaiian which are widely used in English in Hawaii. iNat has decided that USDA is the authority (and probably whatever the equivalent in German is), so there is not much you can do except set your account to use an alternate naming system.


Ive already tryed that for a really absurd name ive seen that isnt actually in use anywhere. The curator pointed to a single website he found that actually listed the name and it didnt get removed. Are there any standards the sources for common names must meet? Otherwise anything from some random corner of the internet will be accepted.


There is only one reference to “Harlekin-MarienkĂ€fer”, which seems to be an Anglicism anyway.
There is only one standard variety of German, which is “Hochdeutsch”. There are regional dialects, of course, but they don’t count as standard, especially for written language.
The lemma in Wikipedia always refers to the standard name of a taxon, and regional names are given as additional information.
By the way, “Biberratte” is particularly odd, because a nutria is in no way a rat, it’s not even rat-sized.

Es gibt durchaus mehrere Standardvarianten des Deutschen. Ich bezweifle, dass die österreichischen und schweizerischen Nachbar:innen mit der Behauptung einverstanden wĂ€ren, ihre offiziellen Formen sind nur “regionale Dialekten”: https://bop.unibe.ch/linguistik-online/article/view/541/910

Die Standardsprache regelt auch keine Fragen der Wortwahl. Mir ist nicht bekannt, dass es irgendwo geschrieben steht, dass z.B. Vicia faba “offiziell” nur Saubohne oder Ackerbohne oder Puffbohne heißt und alle andere Namen nur regionale Varianten sind (diese drei Namen sind beispielsweise als gleichwertige Alternativen im Digitalen Wörterbuch der Deutschen Sprache aufgefĂŒhrt.)

Ob “korrekt” oder nicht, wird “Biberratte” von nicht wenigen Quellen benutzt, siehe etwa hier oder hier. Es mag sein, dass dieser Name weit weniger gĂ€ngig ist als anderen und in den journalistischen Quellen nur verwendet wird, um Wiederholungen zu vermeiden – aber nichtdestotrotz gibt es reichlich Belege, dass der Name im Gebrauch ist.

Es gibt darĂŒber hinaus keine Regel, dass die auf iNat aufgefĂŒhrten VulgĂ€rnamen Standardnamen sein mĂŒssen – soweit ich weiß dĂŒrfen auch regionale Namen eingetragen werden, solange sie tatsĂ€chlich von Menschen verwendet werden und nicht einfach von jemanden auf iNat erfunden wurden. Sowohl “Harlekin-MarienkĂ€fer” als auch bei “Biberratte” sind nachweisbar im Gebrauch.

Es mag sein, dass es sinnvoller wÀre, bei den beiden Arten einen anderen VulgÀrnamen auf der Taxon-Seite zu priorisieren. Aber das bedeutet nicht, dass sie per se falsch sind.


There are a fair amount of existing threads on the forum that address this and related questions that you could read through. Some examples:
but many others as well.

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I lived in Zuerich (don’t have Umlauts on my keyboard.
Hochdeutsch insists on Zuericher but the locals say Zuercher.
Switzerland has many many German dialects.

‘Water Rat’ is also an English common name for these fellows. Not used a much anymore, but still used often enough that people will generally know what you’re talking about.

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Hi. Harlekin-MarienkĂ€fer is used as the common name of Harmonia axyridis on the websites of German government agencies (Umweltbundesamt), mass media (SZ, BR) and environment protection NGOs (NABU), etc. It might be its prevalent German name by now, possibly as the alternative, Asiatischer MarienkĂ€fer (‘Asian Lady Beetle’), is arguably kinda stupid. Also, Harmonia axyridis only arrived in Europe/Germany about 20 years ago and I sure am glad that iNat supports Harlekin in the ongoing process of establishing a common name. :smile:

There is certainly nothing “wrong” about the common name Biberratte (‘Beaver Rat’), it even belongs to the family with the common name Stachelratten (‘Spine Rats’), Echimyidae. There are many similarly misleading common names in German, neither Steinfliegen (Plecoptera), Eintagsfliegen (mayflies) nor Florfliegen (Chrysopidae) are Fliegen (fles), for example. Probably for good reasons, what else would biologists and enthusiasts talk about with other people, if there were no misleading common names to clarify? :wink: Personally, I use both names.


There are official standards but the system is full of holes. People on iNat aren’t supposed to invent names but any academic can publish a revision of a group in even an obscure but peer-reviwed publication and propose “common” names and iNat will accept them pretty much automatically. It is no less arbitrary than an amateur proposing a poetic name but somehow more acceptable on a “citizen science” website if someone with a sufficiently large number of degrees suggests a misleading, dull and forgettable name in an academic journal.


There are no authorities for common names on iNat, but USDA PLANTS names were mass imported many years ago, so were the first name entered in a lot of cases. You can still flag them so someone can set a more appropriate name as the default.


As I started Inat, I found the name HarlekinmarienkÀfer very strange, as I never had heard it before. Only knew it as Asiatischer MarienkÀfer. - But, by time I found HarlekinmarienkÀfer is more correct to me, as said before, Ladybug from Asia
 is a bit stupid

And yes, I call a Nutria Nutria, but sure it is a Bieberratte.

I wouldn’t want taxon to change to asiatischer MarienkĂ€fer.

The problem is in many cases that there is no more appropriate common name to make the default. The only common names are made up ones. In reality many species are only referred to by scientific names, even by common people.

yeah, I know. I was responding to

And a Fledermaus is not a Maus, either.

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German had several like that :slightly_smiling_face: Schildkröte, WaschbĂ€r, Seehund, Walross, Nilpferd, Meerkatze, Meerschweinchen, 


I find the German name “Nosferatu-Spinne” for Zoropsis spinimana utterly idiotic. It has greatly added to the public misconception that the bite of this spider is deadly. You’d think it was likely to exterminate entire villages!
This mediterranean species is increasingly being seen north of the Alps, but didn’t have a German name originally. It must have been some cinephile who concocted this one. Apparently the pattern on the back of the spider reminded them of the vampire’s grimace in the 1922 silent movie by F.W. Murnau Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. I can’t see a similarity. I’d have preferred a more appropriate name as proposed by researchers (essentially a translation of the scientific name, which in this case in my view was 500% better than vampires).
Alas, this silly name has in the meantime officially been accepted as the popular German name for the species – which makes for such great panic-spreading click-baits in certain media. :-|



Meerkatze comes from Afrikaans then from Dutch.
Doesn’t explain why the Dutch thought desert animals were cats, that lived in the sea.