Section B. How to add a relationship

Modified on Mon, 18 Sep 2023 at 11:30 AM

Table of Contents

First, navigate to the "Relationship unknown" page for a Taxon Framework with a source as described in the Intro. If we want to keep a "Relationship unknown" taxon as an active taxon but remove it from the "Relationship unknown" page, then we have to add a Taxon Framework Relationship. But as long as the taxon isn’t in the Taxon Framework source, this relationship won’t be the usual “match” type but will rather be a deviation.


Step 1. Investigate whether a deviation is necessary

Deviations are time-consuming to construct and maintain so they should only be made as a last resort. First, please:



Step 1a. Determine that there’s a strong desire to keep the taxon

This is done via discussions in flags. An unresolved flag on a taxon is a hint that there may be a discussion in progress about the "Relationship unknown" taxon that should be concluded before moving forward with synonymizing the "Relationship unknown" taxon via the steps described above. It’s also a good idea to start such a discussion before synonymizing a "Relationship unknown" taxon with more than 100 observations to reduce the risk of learning about strong community support to keep the "Relationship unknown" taxon after it's been synonymized.


Click the "Flagged for Curation" badge to read the flag and confirm that the topic is the "Relationship unknown" status. 



If a flag to discuss the "Relationship unknown" status of this taxon does not exist, you can create one by clicking "Flag for Curation." In the flag, state that you are asking for objections to synonymizing the taxon and mention the top observer or the top identifier, or any other relevant stakeholders. If there is no response or strong support after a week or so, add a comment saying you are bringing the taxon in line with the Taxon Framework source, resolve the flag, and jump to the “Synonymizing relationship unknowns” section above. 


Step 1b. Determine if the Taxon Framework source can add the taxon on their end

If there is strong support for keeping the taxon on iNat, someone should attempt to contact the Taxon Framework source to see if they will consider adding the taxon on their end (contact information is listed on the relevant Taxon Framework page).  Make sure the taxon is a suitable candidate for the Taxon Framework source. For example, many sources don’t include hybrids, extinct taxa, or certain ranks like subgenera, so it’s not worth contacting them about these taxa. Leave a comment asking those expressing strong support to contact the source and report back.

If no one reaches out to the Taxon Framework source, or there is no further other activity on the flag indicating coordination is in progress after a week or so, add a comment saying you are bringing the taxon in line with the Taxon Framework source, resolve the flag, and jump to the “Synonymizing relationship unknowns” section above. 


Step 2. Create the deviation

If there is strong support to keep the taxon despite it not being in the Taxon Framework source, you should create a "deviation" relationship. Even if the Taxon Framework source has expressed their intent to add the taxon, you should add a deviation until they actually add the taxon. Start by clicking "Add relationship."

Deviations can be complicated to understand, create, and maintain. Before filling out the form please read this page explaining Taxon Frameworks and feel free to leave the creation of complicating deviations to other curators if you don’t feel comfortable making them yourself.


The simplest deviations are of type "Not external." This is for situations where the taxon is not in the Taxon Framework source and its meaning isn’t entangled with any other taxa that are in the Taxon Framework source. A good example would be a newly described taxon or a hybrid taxon. To create these, leave the "External Taxa" section blank. All deviations should include a link to the resolved flag where they were discussed in the Notes section.

The resulting deviation will have a taxon on the iNaturalist side and nothing on the Taxon Framework source side.


A good way to learn about more complicated deviations is to view other deviations from the relevant Taxon Framework page.


Deviations are any relationship other than those of type "match" (same name, rank, parent name and parent rank) and "alternate position" (same name, rank, different parent name and/or parent rank). To see deviations that are more complicated than those of type "not external" (discussed above), uncheck this type and filter. For example, deviations of type one-to-one have a different name in the Taxon Framework source (but do not involve any other taxa; see many-to-many below).

Many-to-one may be used to represent species that were split on iNaturalist but lumped in the Taxon Framework source.

Likewise, one-to-many may be used to represent species lumped on iNaturalist but split by the Taxon Framework source.

Lastly, many-to-many can be used to capture more complex deviations such as a species represented in one genus on iNaturalist but in a different genus by the Taxon Framework source. Using the example below, note that in addition to the the T. atun / L. atun pair, the monotypic genus Leionura needs to be included on the Catalog of Fishes side since it doesn’t exist on iNaturalist, and the genus Thyrsites needs to be included on both sides since it has a different meaning on iNaturalist (it contains atun) vs on Catalog of Fishes.

“Not internal” deviations are rarely used in cases where there’s a taxon in the Taxon Framework source that we don’t want to include in iNaturalist.


iNaturalist really isn’t designed to handle deviations more complex than those listed here (for example, large genera containing many species mapping to a different set of large genera). Complex deviations should be avoided by working with community and the Taxon Framework source contacts to reach a compromise.


Once you’ve created the deviation, leave a comment on the flag indicating that you’ve created a deviation. 


As the taxonomy on iNaturalist and the Taxon Framework source continues to change, deviations can become out of date and require continued maintenance. Please revisit existing deviations and their associated resolved flags to make sure they’re properly documented and still relevant. If they aren’t, remove them.


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