Taxonomic keys are important tools used by scientists and other investigators to identify specific organisms based on defining characteristics. Up until the last decade, these keys were most often published as dichotomous keys, in which specimens are identified by choosing from a progressive series of pairs of options until a solution is reached. While dichotomous keys are still universally used, the online arena provides the opportunity to design and use keys based on a character matrix.
The identification keys on this site are based on a character matrix format. Specimens may be identified by selecting one or more character states (columns) for each character (rows). As selections are made a list of possible species identifications will appear at the bottom of the matrix. Clicking on the species name opens an information sheet with more information to help you understand the specimen you’ve identified.
This library of identification keys is a work in progress, and will grow and expand as new keys become available."