Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Citizen science and global biodiversity
Citizen science and global biodiversity

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

6 Using a biological key

Now it’s your chance to practise using a biological key for identifying species of dragonfly or damselfly.

Activity 1 Working through a dichotomous key

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

In this activity you will need to choose three of the seven dragonfly or damselfly photos shown below and then use the dichotomous key [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   to produce an identification. For each photo you select, record the name of the species that you arrive at using the key.

Active content not displayed. This content requires JavaScript to be enabled.
Figure 3–9 Options 1-7
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Then, with the same photos selected, work your way through the iSpot online Bayesian key. Again, note down the name of the species.

Did you arrive at the same species name using both forms of the key? If not, check all the characters of the species to make sure you are confident which species it is and see if you can find where you made a mistake in the key.


The species are : Figure 3 (Option 1)Brachytron pratense, Figure 4 (Option 2) Calopteryx splendens, Figure 5 (Option 3) Coenagrion puella, Figure 6 (Option 4) Pyrrhosoma nymphula, Figure 7 (Option 5) Ischnura elegans, Figure 8 (Option 6) Cordulia aenea, Figure 9 (Option 7)Libellula depressa.

Image of Banded demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)
Figure 10 Banded demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)

Now look at Figure 10 of a banded demoiselle. What is the main difficulty you might have when identifying the species in this image?


The insect has its wings open at rest, but this species is classed as a damselfly in the keys and damselflies are supposed to have their wings closed at rest.