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 Machine learning helps predict worldwide plant-conservation priorities
04.12.2018 | Ohio State University

nachricht From the Arctic to the tropics: researchers present a unique database on Earth’s vegetation
20.11.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

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: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

Im Focus: Researchers develop method to transfer entire 2D circuits to any smooth surface

What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.

Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...

Im Focus: Three components on one chip

Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.

Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...

Im Focus: Substitute for rare earth metal oxides

New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals

Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.

Im Focus: A bit of a stretch... material that thickens as it's pulled

Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.

Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

Expert Panel on the Future of HPC in Engineering

03.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electronic evidence of non-Fermi liquid behaviors in an iron-based superconductor

11.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Topological material switched off and on for the first time

11.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

NIST's antenna evaluation method could help boost 5G network capacity and cut costs

11.12.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>