Which category to choose?


WhatSpecies uses a simplified classification system.

The following guidelines can be used to determine the appropriate category for your observation:


For example frogs, toads and salamanders.
Born in the water. When they are born, they breath with gills like a fish. But when they grow up, they develop lungs and can live on land. 



Use the Arthropods category for centipedes, millipedes and sea spiders. (Other Arthropods such as arachnids, crustaceans and insects have their own categories in WhatSpecies).

Arthropods are invertebrates with segmented bodies and jointed limbs.



For example spiders, scorpions, harvestmen, solifuges. (Subcategory of arthropods).

All arachnids have eight legs.

Spiders have two body segments joined by a cylindrical pedicel. Their mouth parts have fangs that inject venom. Unlike insects they do not have antennae.

Scorpions are invertebrate with an exoskeleton. Scorpions have eight legs, a pair of grasping claws and a segmented tail which ends with a venomous stinger.



For example crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill, barnacles. (Subcategory of arthropods).

Crustaceans have an exoskeleton (external skeleton) and two-parted legs divided into seven segments.



For example butterflies, bees, beetles, moths, and millions more. (Subcategory of srthropods).

Insects are a class of invertebrates within the arthropod phylum that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body (head, thorax and abdomen), three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes and one pair of antennae.


Includes all birds.

Birds are animals that have feathers and that are born out of hard-shelled eggs. Some people think that what makes an animal a bird is its wings. Bats have wings. Flies have wings. Bats and flies are not birds. It is the feathers, and not the wings, that makes an animal a bird.

All birds have feathers and birds are the only animals that do.


For example fishes, sharks, seahorses.

Fish are vertebrates that live in water and have gills, scales and fins on their body, and lack limbs and digits. 

 Fungi & lichens

For example mushrooms and lichens.

Fungi is separate from plants and animals and their cells have cell walls that contain chitin, whereas the cell walls of plants contain cellulose.

Lichens are composite organisms that consist of a fungi and a photosynthetic partner growing together in a symbiotic relationship. To simplify categorisation, Lichens and Fungi are included in one category in WhatSpecies.


For example lion, elephant, antelope, whales, dolphins, bats, pangolin, etc.

Mammals give birth to their young, except for the platypus and four species of spiny anteaters that lay eggs. Some of the features that distinguish mammals from other animals are that they have hair or fur, three middle ear bones, the neocortex region of the brain and the females have mammary glands.

 Mollusks and Echinoderms

For example squid, octopus, snails, slugs, abalone, limpets, clams, oysters, mussles, etc.

Mollusks are invertebrate animals that live in the oceans, freshwater and some in terrestrial habitats. Very diverse body structures. The two most universal features are a mantle with a significant cavity used for breathing and excretion, and the structure of the nervous system.

Echinoderms are marine animals distinguished by their, usually 5-point, radial symmetry. Includes starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and sand dollars. To simplify classification, echinoderms and mollusks are grouped together in one category in WhatSpecies.


For example seed producing plants, hornworts, liverworts, conifers, cycads, ferns, mosses and green algae.

Excludes fungi and red and brown seaweeds such as kelp.

Plants are also called green plants and have living cell walls with cellulose. Plants obtain most of their energy from sunlight through a process called photosynthesis using chlorophyll which give plants their green colour.


For example snakes, lizards, crocodiles, alligators, turtles.

Reptiles have scales rather than fur or feathers and are cold-blooded. Most reptiles are egg-laying, although with some species the fetus develops within the mother.



Everything that doesn't fit anywhere else. For example jellyfish, sponges, red and brown seaweeds such as kelp or when you are unsure.

The category "Other" is used for species that do not fit in any of the categories above, or when you are unsure of the correct category. Over time, if the number of observations of a specific class of species justifies it, additional categories will be created.


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