Photo-ID

Photographic identification of individual dolphins and seals allows us to track reproductive histories and estimate survival rates, underpinning studies of marine mammal population dynamics.

Group of bottlenose dolphinsOur boat-based photo-ID studies of the Moray Firth dolphins were started in 1989, and around 60% of the population can be consistently recognised from distinctive nicks in their dorsal fins. Regular surveys are made throughout each summer, contributing to population studies and gathering information on social structure and ranging patterns.

Female # 48 giving birthMore recently, improvements in camera technology have allowed us to recognise individual harbour seals from their pelage patterns; providing information on survival, reproductive rates, and variation in the timing of pupping.

Example studies

Thompson, P.M. & Wheeler, H. (2008) Photo-ID based estimates of reproductive patterns in female harbor seals. Marine Mammal Science, 24: 138-146.

Lusseau, D., Wilson, B., Hammond, P.S., Grellier, K., Durban, J.W., Parsons, K.M., Barton, T.R. & Thompson, P.M. (2006) Quantifying the influence of sociality on population structure in bottlenose dolphins. Journal of Animal Ecology, 75: 14-24.