To work with the identification key, it is recommended to use a screen of suitable size and resolution, as well as a mouse.
Use a suitable browser (Firefox is not recommended due to slow performance).
Set up the browser window appropriately, preferably in full-screen mode, or at least big enough so that you have a good overview of all the elements on the main page of the identification key.
If you select 'enter database' on the homepage, you will first get to a start page where you have to select a sub-database by class and habitat (e.g. marine gastropods) by clicking into the plate. This takes you to the main page of the identification key.
The determination process is largely self-explanatory, so no lengthy explanations are required here. Read the functional notes that appear when you move the mouse pointer to the respective elements and buttons and you will learn everything you need to know. The identification key has been designed to be as easy to use as possible. However, that is not to say that identifying mollusks is in itself an easy matter. In some groups, species identification is so difficult that even the best experts do not always come to a correct result. Even the best tool cannot get rid of this fact.
Here are a few tips you should keep in mind:
- Answer the questions presented at the beginning as best as you can. In principle, it is possible to skip questions or to answer them fuzzy, but if you skip fundamental questions at an early stage, meaningful progress is hardly possible. Questions of lesser relevance may also appear at a later stage. You can recognize this from the feature value ranges for the actual question that are displayed in the right column of the taxon list. Note that there a '-' means 'up to', and a 'v' means 'or'.
- Enter a typical value for analog features (e.g. for the 'size' the actual size of one of the larger specimens), the range of biological variability is already taken into account in the value ranges of the database. Only enter a second value if you are unsure, e.g. a larger size if you only have one specimen and you are not sure whether it is fully grown.
- Always mind the exact definitions for selective features, especially the texts given in the tables. Never make a decision based on an image alone. The illustrations are mostly only examples, intended to provide a better understanding of how the features are to be understood. It's always the text which is decisive.
- If you have answered all of the general questions (or skipped irrelevant ones), there may still be several matches left. In this case, the display of the main page switches to pairwise comparison mode. Two species are always compared in this mode, one of which can be excluded. Again, never make the decision based solely on the similarity of an image, which can never cover the variability of a species. Here, too, always mind the specific distinguishing criteria given in the text.
- Normally, after answering all the questions, including the pairwise comparisons, only one species should remain. If you have skipped questions or answered them fuzzy, this is not guaranteed. In rare cases, more than one species can remain despite all questions being answered exactly, because there are species that cannot be distinguished at all by the shell, sometimes not even anatomically. In this case, this circumstance is mentioned, and reference is made to the literature to be consulted in this case.
- Another way to exclude a species is on the species pages. If, after carefully answering all relevant questions, there are still some species left, it is advisable to go to the gallery and from there, by clicking on the images, you can go to the respective species page. There you will find all the information available about a species in the database, as well as a button to exclude the species if you are sure that it is not present. Only do so after carefully studying the description and, preferably, also consulting the recommended further readings, which you can easily access via the links provided. Never do this just based on the impression you get from an image.
Three ways to call up a gallery: You can just click a parent taxon (family, superfamily, suborder or order) to open the gallery for the chosen taxonomic unit. Alternatively, you can highlight an arbitrary range in the taxon list, and then click the 'gallery' button. If you click the 'gallery' button, without having made a selection, the gallery will be opened for the entire actually displayed page of the taxon list.
In the gallery there is an image and a text with the description and distribution for each species.
It is recommended that you only enter a gallery after you have reduced the taxa to a manageable level by answering a few questions.
If you are e.g. already confident in addressing a family or genus and want to go straight to the appropriate gallery, you should use 'select' before choosing 'gallery' as this will reduce the 'matches', otherwise it may be that the descriptions contain a confusingly long list of distinguishing criteria for similar species. For the same reason, for families or genera with numerous endemic species, you should first state the locality information.
Three ways to call up a species page: You can just click a species in the taxon list. Or you can highlight a species (the entire name), and then click the 'species-page' button. If you use the taxon search, the hits are highlighted and you can directly click 'species-page' then. From a gallery the species page is called by clicking an image.
Here you will find the following content:
- One or more images: If there are several images, you can call them up by clicking on the icons on the right-hand side. By clicking on the respective image in the main display you get to a full-page presentation. For high-resolution images there is, in addition, a 'full resolution' button, with which you can display the image in full resolution, allowing to recognize microstructural details.
- The description.
- Information on the distribution and maybe on the habitat.
- If existing, notes on subspecies and variants: The identification key ends at species level, but all accepted subspecies are listed, possibly with information on their properties and distribution, but at least with references to relevant literature. li>
- The reference list: Along with the digital identification key, this is one of the core elements of this database. All sources which were taken into account when building the database are listed here for traceability reasons, furthermore, there are indications to those sources that contain further illustrations, and those that contain additional information and are recommended as further reading.
Where available online, specific links are provided, which open in a separate tab when clicked. This gives you a comprehensive overview of the information available online about a species with just a few mouse clicks.
You can get an explanation of terms marked accordingly in the text by clicking on it. Usually, an explanatory text and an illustration are then displayed. In the explanatory text there can be clickable terms again, this can be continued in unlimited levels. By clicking 'back' you will return level by level and finally to the page from where you have entered the glossay, or directly with the button 'exit glossary'.
On the home page you will find a 'Configuration' button. This will take you to a page where you can customize some functionalities to suit your preferences.