The Marine Species Identification Project is an interactive web-based collection of photographs and information on marine species found off the Texas coast. This project began a few years ago as an aid in identifying organisms caught by Texas Parks & Wildlife Coastal Fisheries field staff. It was started to provide technicians and biologists with visual aids to identification by pointing out the distinguishing characteristics of the vast array of organisms caught in our routine sampling. The number of photographs and amount of information currently at hand is too overwhelming to cover in a hard-bound form. By expanding this information to the internet, it allows not only our biologists and technicians, but the general public, to access a usable, visual tool for identifying Texas species. Most species identification web sites use text only or drawings that lack pertinent detail to represent species. This web site is photo-based using whole organisms and close-up photos of features useful in identification. The information is presented in an understandable way so that users of all backgrounds and levels of expertise may benefit from the knowledge.
The purpose is of this guide is to provide detailed photos and descriptions to aid in the correct identification of individual organisms. Each species is represented by one or more photographs and brief descriptions of habitat, distinguishing characteristics, differences with similar species, maximum sizes, meristics, common and scientific names and families, and any other interesting or pertinent information.
The site includes interactive identification keys that will allow users to identify or narrow down the identity of an organism based on body characteristics. There is separate taxonomic key for identifying families of organisms. There is also a query system, similar to the taxonomic keys, where a list of possible species can be narrowed down based on general features, such as mouth type, tail shape, dorsal spines, dorsal fins, and distinctive features. A glossary of technical terms used with drawings and photos of specific features and diagnostic characteristics of each group of organisms is presented to assist in identification. The site is designed for users of different levels of expertise, from the general public to professional biologists.
The web site is expandable and will constantly be updated as new species and photographs become available.
Effective management of marine resources must be based on scientifically sound knowledge of life history, population dynamics and status of the resource. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Coastal Fisheries Division collects multitudes of data to assess changes in abundance and sizes of organisms, spatial and temporal distributions and species composition of marine communities. Correct identification of species encountered is essential to our understanding of these marine processes. Marine species can be difficult to identify because of the vast numbers of species and similarities of related species. Distinguishing species correctly is a process requiring special skills that need to be demonstrated or taught. Hopefully, this web site provides insight into that process.