Computer software developed by astrophysicists to locate stars and galaxies in the night sky could help save the whale shark - whose spotted skin is like a starry sky - from extinction, according to new research published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied Ecology.
Together with Australian marine biologist Brad Norman and JAVA programmer and software specialist Jason Holmberg, astrophysicist Dr Zaven Arzoumanian of the Universities Space Research Association and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland discovered that a pattern-matching algorithm developed by astronomers to locate celestial objects could be used to identify individual whale sharks. Whale sharks’ spots are analogous to bright stars in the night sky, allowing the trio of researchers to adapt the star pattern recognition technique to the characteristic markings found on the largest fish in the sea. “This is an example of space technology finding an important application here on Earth,” says Arzoumanian.
According to Arzoumanian: “The contrast of white whale shark spots on darker skin is well suited to a machine vision technique known as ’blob extraction’, which measures the locations and dimensions of pixel groups of a single colour. The spatial relationships between these groups, represented by a set of x, y coordinates, form the basis for a unique identifier for each shark.”
Becky Allen | alfa
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