YOU'RE THE SCIENTIST!

A KEY FOR IDENTIFYING PRIMATE SPECIES

A lesson for understanding how a dichotomous key can help to identify organisms in nature

In this lesson we explore how to use dichotomous keys to scientifically identify nonhuman primate species

DICHOTOMOUS KEY: A TOOL FOR IDENTIFYING PRIMATE SPECIES

Hi! I’m Scarlett. I am a middle-school science teacher in Georgia, USA. I developed this lesson with NEPC to guide you through the steps of understanding, using, and creating a dichotomous key to identify organisms in nature. 

Scientists use dichotomous keys to identify and classify living and nonliving objects nature. The word dichotomous is derived from the Greek words meaning “two parts.” The key consists of a series of two contrasting statements or clues about the characteristics or features of organisms and provides a step-by-step guide to identifying each one. The clues gradually narrow down the list of possibilities until all are identified.

What Does a Dichotomous Key Look Like?

  • A dichotomous key contains a series of statements about observable features or characteristics of an organism.
  • Each statement or step contains two choices.
  • The user selects the statement that aligns with the specimen they are trying to identify.
  • As they move further through the key, the statements narrow down the list of possible specimens, until all are identified.
Watch the video below for a simple example of how a dichotomous key can identify primate groups

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