I am always amazed at the answers in species-identification, especially for insects and plants. It seems like a grainy photo, a vague description, and very broad geographical location (often just a continent) is all that it takes to pinpoint a species. Yet there are millions of species! That seems remarkably efficient from an information theory standpoint to me.
Before asking online I always try to identify my critter myself first, and I never have much luck.
- Searching by traits ("large green head with black oval eyes and slender body") turns up too much irrelevant information
- Binary tree style identification flowcharts seem hard to find, and having used those to identify microorganisms I get the impression that they tend to be very imprecise
- Phone apps and similar software seems absolutely useless 99% of the time
But somehow the answerers are able to identify species so easily and so accurately. How do you do it? What's your secret? Do you just have encyclopedic knowledge of all the common species out there? Are there just lots of clade nerds lurking this site, who each know everything about one cluster of species, and it's just that whatever the species there happens to be someone on this site who knows it? Or is there some kind of system for IDing even species you haven't heard of before?