Identification keys

Before you begin

Included here are two identification keys - a traditional PDF key and an interactive Lucid key - to families and species of New Zealand slaters. The keys are designed to be used by a non-specialist, and rely on morphological characters one can see with a magnifying glass, a dissecting microscope, or zoom of the camera lens. Before using the keys, please familiarise yourself with the names of body parts used in identification (SLATERS EXPLAINED).

Some identifications will lead to a species name. For others, identification will lead to a family name, which means that species-level identification is not possible without resorting to microscopic characters, or that species-level taxonomy is unresolved and many species are undescribed. A published species-level identification key will be suggested, but may be difficult to use. As new information on New Zealand fauna becomes available, the keys will be expanded and updated. Linked to the names in the key are Factsheets with descriptions and pictures. If your specimen matches the factsheet images, your identification is correct, but keep in mind, that your specimen may not look exactly like the illustrations used here for the family, if your particular species was not illustrated.

Traditional dichotomous key

"Dichotomous" means "divided into two". At each step a dichotomous key gives two alternative choices (couplets), one of them needs to be selected and will lead to the next two choices, and so on. Keep choosing until you arrive at the name for the slater you are trying to identify. Below is example of couplet 11-11' in the Key:

The dichotomous key to NZ slaters is a PDF file, which can be used either onscreen, or printed out. When used onscreen, interactive PDF features are available, with active links to species/families factsheets. Adobe Reader is required to read the PDF key.

Launch the PDF Key


Lucid key

The key will open with a list of illustrated characters ("Features"), each with a choice of 2-5 character states found in various slater taxa ("Entities"). The key allows you to choose characters in any order and combination, and does not rely on all characters being visible in a particular specimen. When you select a character state that matches the specimen on hand, the key eliminates all taxonomic groups that do not display that character state, until only one group, or a short list of possible identities, remains.

To use a Lucid3 key, the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) version 1.5 or greater needs to be installed on your computer. Use the Oracle Java Test to check which Java version you are running. The latest Java version can be downloaded for free from If your browser blocks pop-ups, you should change your browser's internet settings to allow pop-ups. Otherwise, some of the key functions may be blocked. You should also click "Allow active content" if your browser notifies you that the active content has been blocked.

IMPORTANT: The more recent Java versions (7.0 and 8.0) have enhanced security features, which prevent untrusted applications from running. If you get a message "Application is Blocked by Java Security", to run the Lucid key you will need to add the NZ Slater website ( on the Exemption Site list in the Java Console. Please read this Java Help for details on how to do it.

Launch the Lucid Key


System Requirements

Windows 2000/XP/Vista/8, Mac OSX 10.4 or greater, Linux that supports JRE, Solaris 7-10.
RAM: 128MB or greater recommended.

The Lucid key was built in Lucid3.3 (Centre for Biological Information Technology, University of Queensland).