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Citizen science and global biodiversity
Citizen science and global biodiversity

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2.2 Example 3

A rather more common situation is where there are several different species that look similar. In this case it is very important to look for small differences to separate the species.

Example 3 Fungi

In the case of fungi, methods of identifying these differences involve the use of chemical tests or microscopic examination.

It is relatively easy to identify the mushrooms in Video 6 as being in the genus Russula due to their bright colour and very fragile flesh. However, identifying them accurately from the large numbers of different Russula species can be much more difficult, even for experts. In fact, the mushroom on the right, with a slightly darker red cap, is of a different species of Russula from the others.

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Video 6 Red Russulas growing in the wild.
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For people who collect mushrooms to eat, identification can be critical. Looking at the fungi in Video 7, you could pose the question, is this mushroom a grey spotted amanita (Amanita excelsa var. spissa), which may be edible, or the very similar panther cap mushroom (Amanita pantherina), which is deadly poisonous? Or perhaps it’s one of the other species of amanita that look rather similar? It is actually a grey spotted amanita.

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Video 7 An amanita fungus
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These are just a few examples that demonstrate how important it is to identify species accurately for a whole variety of reasons. Biological keys, which can be books or computer based aids, are one of the most useful tools for carrying out accurate identification of different species.