Marine life identification sources online

Updated: 30 May, 2019

While a good library is handy, sometimes a particular species is difficult to identify. Fortunately, there are some great communities out there to help and encourage budding ecologists!

I hope to slowly expand this page as more suggestions and recommendations come in.

Facebook

Note: please read the group rules before posting.

ID please – Marine Creature Identification

12,000+ members and open to a broad range of posts.

Nudibase – Sharing Nudibranch Knowledge

Nudibranchs and all of their related sea slugs. No flat worms, please!

Lots of great nudibranch resources in the “Files” section as well.

Nudibranch Central

A great Nudibranch group, supported by Gary Cobb, who runs the nudibranch.com.au website.

Marine Flatworms

For IDing flatworms.

Crustacean Identification Group

For crustaceans – shrimp, crabs, lobsters and so forth.

All Fish Species Identification

For fish, and is open to a wider range of images, such as from fresh water, or from fishing and hunting.

(Many sites and groups promote safe, non-contact interactions only, and as such ban any photo with manipulation, touching, or hunting.)

Cypraea – Cowry – Ciprea – Cowries – Cipree

Just for Cowries. Shells or the whole animal; both are allowed here.

Stromboidea or Strombidae only

Photos and discourse related to stromboidea or strombidae (a group of large snails).

Marine Molluscs – Photos, Biology and Behavioral Ecology

For gastropods, bivalves and cephalopods.

Websites

All

iNaturalist

This is a well regarded site with over 190,000 species of plants and animals recorded.

One of the world’s most popular nature apps, iNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over 750,000 scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! What’s more, by recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. iNaturalist is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.

If you want to share your pictures, access a Life list, mapping, names dictionary and have other people checking your identifications on a worldwide scale then iNaturalist is a very good option. Validated records get transferred to Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). It also has a Seaslugs of the world project, with 31,000 records of 1,206 species (today).

There is a free app for Android and Apple devices as well!

Project Noah

Project Noah is an award-winning software platform designed to help people reconnect with the natural world. Started at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program in 2010, the project began as an experiment to mobilize citizen scientists. Backed by National Geographic, Project Noah is mobilizing a new generation of nature explorers

There is a free app for both Android and Apple devices for Project Noah.

DORIS

French-language based.

DORIS has records of marine species of animals and plants, entirely realized by volunteer amateurs and scientists, within the framework of the French Federation of diving ( FFESSM ) and its commission of biology ( CNEBS ).

Nudibranchs / sea slugs / etc

Seaslugs of the World (at iNaturalist.org)

Contains 1,206 species of sea slugs (nudibranchs, etc.).

Nudibranch Central

Australian-based, but world-wide. Supports their iPhone and Android ID apps as well.

Mediterranean Slug Site

German-English. For Mediterranean slugs.

OPK Opistobranquis

Spanish / Catalan / English. For Mediterranean and Iberian molluscs.

Seaslug World

Japanese-language based, with 1,533 species.

Seaslug Forum

An extensive resource for all things relating to sea slugs.

However, there have been many changes since the site stopped being updated. As such, we can’t really use the Sea Slug Forum for IDs anymore.

It is a great starting point and an invaluable resource, but it is many years out of date.

It is good if you want to compare to the photos that are on it.

Fish

Fish Database

The database contains 8327 pictures of 1559 different species of fish.

Digital

If you’re going “off-grid” (away from the internet) and taking books with you is too much hassle, then consider taking some digital books with you, on your phone, tablet or kindle.

There aren’t a lot of big publisher options out there, but there are a few. (Note: For color Kindle books, I recommend the Kindle Fire)








Some books are even free!

Frogfish

Teresa (Zubi) Zuberbühler wrote a brilliant book on specifically frogfish. It’s available as a PDF.

 

Western Australian Department of Fisheries

Recreational fishing identification guide

The Department of Fisheries has a free book of common marine life: fish, sharks and crustaceans. While aimed at fishermen, it just as useful to divers. Direct link to PDF.

Resource sheets and Fact sheets

To gain a better understanding of the biology of marine life, and how to identify them, the DoF has released a series of one-page Resource sheets (on the right side of this page) for “beachcombers”.

This covers chordata, mollusca, cnidaria, echinodermata, porifera, annelida, bryozoa, crustacea, seagrasses and algae.

For more in-depth information on marine life, the WA DoF has published a series of 3-4 page PDF pamphlets about a number of species in Western Australia. For example, on whale sharks.

WA DoF links

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