Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Why a whale shark’s spots could help save its skin

06.10.2005


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.”



In the same way that individual whales can be identified by the shape and markings on their flukes, photographic identification of individual whale sharks through their spot pattern “fingerprints”, as well as other markers, has long been possible. However, the full potential of photographic identification has rarely been exploited because of the unmanageable task of making visual identification in large data sets, so using pattern-matching to automate the process is a major advance.

Once photographed, the technique means a whale shark has been “virtually tagged”. According to Norman: “Identifying individuals repeatedly through photography can also inform biological observations such as age of maturity, growth rate and foraging ecology.”

The authors, devoting their own time and resources, have set up the ECOCEAN Whale Shark Photo-identification Library to act as a single repository for whale shark photographs taken by divers and tourists as well as researchers. “The implications of this computer-aided identification technique and web-based photo library for management and conservation of whale sharks may be profound,” Norman says. Without knowing more about the population size, structure and evolution of migratory species like the whale shark, it is impossible to know whether conservation efforts should be directed locally or internationally, or whether marine reserves are effectively protecting them.

Whale sharks are listed as “vulnerable to extinction” by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Up to 20 metres long, the whale shark is the world’s largest fish and lives mainly in the warm water belt north and south of the equator. Whale sharks pose no danger to humans as they are filter-feeders.

Becky Allen | alfa
Further information:
http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ocean atmosphere rife with microbes

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Neutrons observe vitamin B6-dependent enzyme activity useful for drug development

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA finds newly formed tropical storm lan over open waters

17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>