Did you know you can tell individual whales and dolphins apart?

Many whales and dolphins have markings that are individually unique. These are easily distinguished in photographs.Some of the marks used occur naturally, like the fluke patterns of humpback whales or callosities on the heads of right whales.

20151104_6D_HB-IMG_2028 (SSA - Simon Elwen).JPG

Right dorsal fin of a humpback whale, behind the fin is the tail of a seal; taken in Nov. 2015

Marks are also gained over time, like the scars  and dorsal fin notches on dolphins from social interaction.

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A humpback whale with many scars from cookiecutter sharks (also called demon-whale-biter); taken in Nov. 2015


Cookiecutter shark

By comparing photographs to a catalogue of known individuals, animals can be identified. This process is called PHOTO-ID.

Researchers and naturalists use this process to recognise  individuals over time.

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Tail fluke of a humpback whale, with a lot of barnacles; taken Nov. 2015

The focus, angle and lighting of ID photos are very important for consistent individual identification.


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About seasearchafrica

The Sea Search group is a collective of scientists and students with a strong academic background in the area of marine mammal science. Our primary focus is the production of peer-reviewed scientific research and student training. We also provide specialist consultancy services and work with industry and government to promote conservation through effective management.

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