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Traditional Identification Methods

The traditional procedure for identifying organisms involves comparing the physical characteristics of a collected specimen with the characteristics for a known species. There are numerous taxonomic books that describe the physical appearance, both externally and internally, of millions of species, as well as what is known about their habitats and general biology. Census researchers study collected specimens, often through microscopes, to distinguish features such as the number of tentacles on a jellyfish or the length of spines on a deep-sea anglerfish, and match what they find with existing species descriptions.

The image above contains species of worms. The diversity of marine species demonstrates the difficulty of taxonomic identification. (Natural Geography in Shore Areas - NaGISA. Tetsuya Kato; see full-size image -- 109K)

Taxonomists sorting through samples of newly collected organisms in Libong Island, Thailand. (Natural Geography in Shore Areas - NaGISA. Somchai Bussarawit)

Identification of fish in the laboratory of a research vessel during a cruise. (Mid-Atlantic Ridge Ecosystems - MAR-ECO. John Galbraith)

In-depth identification often requires the study of microscopic details by highly trained taxonomists. (Census of the Diversity of Abyssal Marine Life - CeDAMar)

Click on the links below to see what Census projects use this technology:

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