Are dichotomous keys used only to determine species? Explain.

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justaguide | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

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The identification of the species of biological organisms using dichotomous keys is only one of their applications. Dichotomous keys create nodes in a flow chart from which there are only two divergent paths. They can be used choose a particular option given any list of items that have clearly defined characteristics.

For example, a dichotomous key could be used to choose among the following items present in a house: a chair, a bed, an oven, a computer, a telephone, a shower head, a flower pot, a mattress and a cushion. To identify the item a start can be made with the question: the item needs electricity to function. If the item needs electricity to function the choice has been narrowed down to 2 items. The next question could be: the item is used in the kitchen. This gives the item as an oven.


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