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Classification keys T hink about what you do when you find a strange object. You

Classification keys

T hink about what you do when you find a strange object. You are curious. You want to know what it is. You note its features — its size, shape, colour, feel

and smell. You compare it in your mind with objects that have the same or similar features. Scientists follow a process like this one when they try to identify and classify a newly discovered organism. But they often use keys like the one below to help them.

Keys provide a simple way to classify organisms. There are many different types of key. When you want to classify an organism, you need to observe its characteristics or features. Be careful if using colour or size as characteristics because these may change over time. For example, the Arctic fox changes colour from season to season; a chameleon (a type of lizard) changes colour according to its mood; and animals and plants change in size and shape during their lifetime.

and plants change in size and shape during their lifetime. Has four legs Does not have
Has four legs Does not have four legs
Has four legs
Does not have four legs
Has hooves Does not have hooves Has a woolly coat Does not have a woolly
Has hooves
Does not have hooves
Has a woolly coat
Does not have a woolly coat
Has four toes on
Does not
have four
each
foot
toes on each foot
Has a red comb Does not have a red comb
Has a red comb
Does not have a red comb

Dichotomous keys

In a dichotomous key, you always select from two choices. In this key, you decide whether or not an organism has a particular feature. The word ‘dichotomous’ means ‘split into two parts’.

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Science Alive for VELS Level 5

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Go to worksheet 6.2: My own zoo Tabular keys The same information about farm animals
Go to worksheet 6.2:
My own zoo
Tabular keys
The same information about farm animals can be set
out using a tabular key. In a tabular key, you read
through the numbered items in order. Each item
presents two options. As you proceed, more and more
information is given until one of the animals shown
below can be identified. When this happens, the
animal’s name is stated. If there is not enough
information to identify an animal, you are told to go
to another numbered item and make another choice.
THINK
1. Suggest why the ability to classify organisms is
important in the following situations.
(a)
You have been bitten by a spider.
(b)
You are very hungry and find a
bush with berries in the forest.
2. Imagine that you have landed on
another planet. Weird creatures live
there. You noted the characteristics of
some that you saw and prepared the
circular key shown below. Use it to
help you classify the creature you
have just found, shown here.
Alien creature
Googly
Rosy snoz
Huge
Four eyes
Key
red nose
No
Zotter
1. Has four legs
Does not have four legs
Go to 3
Go to 2
Rooster
Duck
Go to 4
Rabbit
Sheep
Go to 5
Pig
Horse
Eight arms
antennae
One
Frog
eye
Little
2. Has a red comb
conk
green
Plant
Six
Four
Does not have a red comb
Four
One
nose
arms
anten-
head
legs
Two
leg
3. Has hooves
nae
eyes
Does not have hooves
Alien
4. Has a woolly coat
Does not have a woolly coat
Claws
Two
Three
Two
Long
Forked
Dragon
arms
5. Has four toes on each foot
legs
legs
tail
tongue
Does not have four toes on each foot
No
Splitz
claws
Four arms
Short tail
Circular keys
Bloop
Big floppy
Circular keys are also very useful. To read a circular
key, start in the middle and work outwards. As you go,
choose one of the options given at each layer. When
you get to the outer layer of the circle, you will have
identified the organism.
Sharp teeth
tongue
Slobber
Chomper
CREATE
3.
Construct a dichotomous key to classify the
following people. Compare your key with a
partner’s and
discuss any
differences.
Sheep
Has a
Duck
woolly coat
Pig
Has
four toes
on
each
Does
Has
foot
Does
not
hooves
not
have
Does
Horse
a red
nnot have
have a
Has
four toes
woolly
comb
four
on
each
coat
not
legs
Farm
foot
have
animals
four
legs
Does
not
Has
have
a red
hooves
comb
Rabbit
Rooster
I CAN:
explain what keys are and describe
their uses
draw a dichotomous key and a
tabular key
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use a key to identify an unknown
creature.
6. Classification
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