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Multiple entry keys ("multikeys" in mx) are used to identify taxa.

Multiple entry keys have some advantages over bifurcating keys in that users can start using the identification tool at any available character. The multi entry key is more or less a traditional matrix based key, with some slight differences. The key functions by creating a stack of chosen character states. Given these chosen states some taxa (and therefor characters) remain relevant.

It is important to note that stack-based keys like this operate a little differently than other multi-entry keys. This key simultaneously removes characters and taxa from the possible remaining outcomes. At any any point you can "return" (red "R") OTU or characters (= a group a character states). Since all that is managed is a stack of states, returning a character or OTU may return other OTUs or characters, since they may not be selected based on the current stack of states.

Overview of functionality in mx multikeys

  • main key: a matrix based, user character choice key. Can begin an identification with any character.
  • compare : compare OTU (operational taxonomic units) with each other. Displays the characters coded for each OTU
  • compare by characters: groups OTUs by character/character states.
  • chosen figures: displays all of the images chosen while working through the key. A good place to review the choices already made that brought you to the present identification. Figures can be returned to the main key. when a figure is returned to the main key the character is also returned AND all of the OTUs that choice originally eliminated!
  • remaining figures: figures not chosen so far in the identification. Can choose figures from this list and work through the key using only these figures (which represent a character state).
  • chosen states: lists the states chosen while working through the key. You can return a state to the key from this list (when you return a state to the key, you return the character, the associated figures and any OTUs choosing that character state eliminated)
  • tags: characters and OTUs are marked with informative tags to help as a guide through the key. Displays all the tags for remaining characters and OTUs.


  • Figures in mx multikey are images attached to characters, these images may in turn contain additional metadata. Figures link to bigger versions of themselves or may link to Morphbank records and annotations. To display figures associated with a character or OTU use the figure(s) link. Each figure is attached to a given state, clicking "add" over a figure is the same as selecting that state.
  • OTUs (Operational Taxonomic Units) are the taxa being compared.
  • Markup refers to the terms in an associated ontology. Clicking the markup button on a page will highlight terms in the ontology and link to definitions.

Navigating the key

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1. Use the <=more=> to toggle through the characters. Only about 5 characters are displayed in the main window at a time.

2. Figures link displays images describing the character states. The orange [?] opens up a separate page that has all the details for this character, notes on the character states and links to annotations. If you are uncertain about how a character is defined its a good idea to click the [?].

3. The color and font of a character state changes with how powerful it might be in the key. The brighter the green the more powerful the character state (very bright green indicates that state is coded for only one OTU! Choose that state and you have your identification). A character state in italics or very light green indicates that it will not eliminate any OTUs (perhaps the OTU the character was affective has already been eliminated).

4. List of OTUs eliminated. These can be returned anytime to the main key by clicking the pink [R] ext to the OTU name.

  • A blue OTU links to page describing that OTU and a great place to review the identification. Use markup (if present) to highlight terms on the page that link to the associated ontology.

5. Remaining OTUs. Those not yet eliminated. If elimination of the last few OTUs becomes difficult you might want to use the comparison features.

6. Eliminated characters. You can use the pink [R] to return any eliminated characters back to the main key. Also returns all of the OTUs removed by choosing that character.

7. Reset the key and Wiki help.

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