Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

What Is the Key to Classification?

Dichotomous keys are designed to assist people with the identification of all types of living things from plants to microbes.

By analyzing the physical characteristics of the object/organism in question and using the steps and choices given in the key, the observer can identify an object/organism based upon well-established traits. At each step in the process, the student is asked to choose one trait over another, which enables the student eventually to establish the object/organism’s unique identity.

In this interactive lesson, you will learn how to make a dichotomous key. You will also learn how to identify important organisms that are part of a biofilm community — a useful skill that will help you with the activities in Biofilms and Biodiversity, another interactive lesson offered by Maryland Sea Grant.

See and use the interactive lessons on the “What is the Key to Classification?” website.

Or download the “What is the Key to Classification?” lessons.