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How To Identify A Known Animal (Fish, Bird, Insect, etc)

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posted on May, 23 2009 @ 04:35 PM
Every so often someone posts a picture of an animal where the type is known, but not the exact species. For instance, it lives in the water and has fins, so you know it's a fish. But what type of fish is it? Or it may sit in trees and have wings, but what kind of bird is it? Hopefully this thread will be a good tool to use if you know what general sort of animal it is, but not the specific type.

This is mainly for non-cryptozoological animals that may seem strange or unknown, but are actually pre-identified species, as opposed to true cryptids or unknown creatures.

For Fish:
This is the best resource available. If you know where the animal was photographed, search in the sections for the country, island, or ecosystem. You can search for many different options, like deep-water fish, freshwater, marine, threatened species, even the uses for the fish. So, let's say I'm looking for a fish I caught off the coast of Bermuda, or I find a picture and it says it was caught there. I'll pick "Bermuda" from the pull-down list in the Country/Island section, and click marine. The search goes through automatically. The system is a little slow, especially if you pick a very wide search.
Once you place a search, the best thing to do it check the "Show Photos" box at the top, and scroll through until you see a fish that looks similar. You can refine your search to any of the options at the top, like "Saltwater" or "Dangerous" or whatever will help you most. A good thing to do once you find a similar looking fish is to do a quick Google search for images of the Species or FB name, to make sure that you've found the right one! When looking at fish and identifying them from an image, try to figure out size for comparison, and location if possible. Also, pay attention to patterns, colors, fin shape, and any unique modifications like large teeth, unique colored eyes, etc.

For Birds:
This database is the best way to search for birds, and it is also easy to use. Start off by selecting the location or habitat if you can. If you are identifying from a picture, you may want to select bill shape, wing shape, primary and secondary colors, and general shape. One or two fields should be enough, but the more you fill in, the better your chances are of finding the exact bird. You can even select body, head, pattern, and flight information to fill in as much known information about the bird as possible.
This database is easy to use, so it's a good idea to play around with it to familiarize yourself. I would select the "Icons" option at the bottom of the "Matches" box. When you find a bird that matches your search, I would again go to Google Images and type in the common or species name to make sure you've found the right one. The most useful traits when identifying a bird are location, color, habitat, size, and beak shape.

For Insects:
This is an alright database. It takes a little more searching to find things. The best thing to do is search by Order or Order Common Name, using the images on the right as a guide. So, say it's kind of large, stands on back legs, and looks kind of like a mantis. Click on "Mantids". There are two common family names, so click on both. First, go through the pictures that are available and see if one of them resembles what you are trying to identify. If not, you can copy and paste the species names into Google Images to see if you can find it there. Although this is kind of tedious, there are not many databases around for insect identification.
This is a dichotomous key to determine the order of the insect.
Another good tip is, if you know where the insect is from, you can search for that in Google- such as "Insects of Maine." You may come up with some good information. If you know the insect is a type of bee or stinging insect, search for "Stinging Insects" and you can look in picture searches, too. If you know it is an ant or butterfly or some general type of insect, you can search for that along with a color to narrow your search, such as "Green Butterfly." Remember, moths have feathery antennae, butterflies have segmented antennae.

These are the most common types of animals that I see people trying to identify here on ATS. Even though something is unknown to you does not make it a cryptid. If there are any other types of animal you need to identify, or if you have trouble identifying something specific, feel free to U2U me and let me know or post here, or start your own thread. Good luck with your species identification!

[edit on 5/23/2009 by ravenshadow13]

posted on May, 23 2009 @ 04:49 PM
Now I can finally make up for my less than desirable biology class and my non-existent Zoology class!

Thanks very much Raven!

posted on May, 24 2009 @ 02:17 AM
There are also quite a few books out there with dichotomus keys if you're a regular wildlife watcher. you can get pocket sized ones to take with you when out and about.
There is also bound to be local wildlife care or watch groups who would be able to help identify local species.

posted on May, 24 2009 @ 09:42 AM
reply to post by zenius

Of course! But if you're an average Joe who posts on ATS to identify something cool, chances are you don't own one. Or, if you have some, they may be for a different location for what you're trying to identify. But if you're really on a hunt and this thread doesn't help, you could always check out your local library or book store.

But this way someone could, instead of posting "What is it?!" post "It's a ____!"
Although I do enjoy the research, myself.

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