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Guide Strangness

Lately I've noticed that many items have been placed in the guide, perhaps from the ID Request, with little explanation. Wouldn't it be a good idea to at least add a comment to an image indicating why it was moved (assuming the existing discussion doesn't already).

Here are some examples:

Two images entitled "Ichneumon wasp?" (1) (2) placed under Braconid wasps with no explanation.

Troy's mystery spider (3) placed under Theridula without anyone being certain.

My jumping spider (4) moved to Corythalia canosa, which is probably safe from the images I've seen of that species online, but no one has backed up my guess.

Maybe there are others as well? That's just what I've come across recently.

I assume whoever moved these images was confident about doing the move, but it would be nice if he/she would add some comments to the images to explain why. And the image titles should be edited to properly reflect what they are, and the question mark should be removed.

Moving images
I try to move images out of the ID request pages once they've been identified with reasonable certainty, usually by other folks such as Eric, Troy, Patrick, etc. For some insects that haven't been identified to genus or species, but I'm certain of the family, I'll move them to the appropriate family page if they've been sitting in the ID requests for a while. For example, I've done this with a number of syrphid flies. I don't usually make a comment when I move something, but it's usually clear from the existing comments if an identification has been made.

On the other hand, I've actually moved some of my own pictures from the guide pages to the ID requests if I have second thoughts on the identification.

I think family should be the general default level of ID. In some cases, like the Braconidae vs. Ichneumonidae vs. Rhopalidae, then order might be as far as we can go until we find a specialist to look at them. You might even want to leave those unresolved in the ID request pages. I'm assuming once we have an ID request identified, then the image is moved, right? I'm so analog....Anyway, my preference for this site is to illustrate as many species as possible, and, if the database gets too big, eliminate redundant images of any given species.

I also believe it makes sense to leave things at a higher spot in the guide when unsure. For example, if the species is in question, just place it in the genus. If the genus is questionable, put it in the family. You get the idea.

My rule, too (move to lowest level of uncertainty)
I always try to leave a note on the image caption if I move it. If I've forgotten to for anybody, I apologize.

For classification have been trying to follow that rule Troy just stated: leave things at a higher spot in the guide when unsure. For example, if the species is in question, just place it in the genus. If the genus is questionable, put it in the family.

The only exceptions I've made are when two closely allied genera, for instance, are virtually indistinguishable. I did that with Pepsis and Hemipepsis wasps--wrote guides for each, but in the Hemipepsis account, referred everything to Pepsis, with an explanation. To me, this seemed much preferable to leaving my presumptive Pepsis images at the family level--Pompilidae. There are some other examples out there, especially among the diptera. For instance, in Syrphidae, Helophilus and Parhelophilus look identical, but are distinctive as a group (tribe?). Seems useful to put those together, and make a note on the guide or even in the genus listing. Canthon and Metacanthon would be a similar example among dung beetles-really similar, but distinctive as a tribe of genera. Likewise with sets of two virtually indistinguishable species--if a photo can be narrowed down to two, perhaps a guide should be written for the group, with an explanation. There's precedence for this, Arnett and Jacques (1), in their photo guide, state they have sometimes combined species indistinguishable by photographs under one species name.

Of course, this is why taxonomists create subfamilies, tribes, subgenera, etc. Hard to know how far to carry this sort of thing--taxonomy is very, very messy.

Patrick Coin
Durham, North Carolina

Good suggestions
I'm sure whoever did it had the best of intentions. Perhaps the braconids were just mistakes? Or another explanation might be some personal email exchanges that we aren't aware of.

It makes sense that for images that aren't your own and where a concensus wasn't reached in the comments to explain the reasoning for moving them. Fixing up the titles should also be done but can be easily overlooked.

I have been asked when it is appropriate to move things and my best answer has been to use your own discretion. I figure any mistakes will get pointed out eventually.

As always, I appreciate all the help we get organizing things in the guide. It's a big task and I feel guilty for not being more involved. I just have too much else going on at the moment.

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