Photo-identification (or photo ID) is a non-invasive technique used by scientists around the world to study whale and dolphin populations, associations and migrations. Like human finger prints, each animal within a population is unique and has distinctive, often identifiable markings which distinguish it from other individuals. Nicks or marks on the body surface are photographed and provide a permanent record of the individual. The part of the animal used for photo ID varies between species but is most commonly the dorsal fin or tail fluke. Through international cooperation, by researchers in different locations, by matching photographs of the same individual at different times and in different locations it is possible to learn more about the movements and life histories of that individual and its associates.
The Song of the Whale team collect photo-id images of various species to contribute to international catalogues of the flukes and dorsal fins of whales whenever possible. These images are then submitted to various international photo id catalogues, including NAMSC (for sperm whales in the N Atlantic and Mediterranean, and the North Atlantic Humpback Whale catalogue). Every so often, a photographic match between two photographs is found; this is very exciting, especially when the match is from an entirely different part of the world and many years later.
Recently, a humpback whale photographed by the SOTW team off Iceland in 2006 was matched for the first time with a photograph taken off Guadeloupe (French West Indies) in 2013.
The North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue curated by Allied Whale at the College of the Atlantic in the USA, matched these photos. It now has records of over 8,000 individual humpback whales identified over more than four decades from all of the known concentrations of humpback whales across the ocean basin. It is a hugely collaborative project, with more than 600 scientists, photographers and interested individuals contributing. This photo-identification research has revealed that humpbacks migrate to warm waters (for example, in the Caribbean) to mate and calve, and travel to colder northern waters in the summer to feed, and that humpbacks reach sexual maturity at 4 or 5 years of age and calve every two years.
MCR Senior Research Scientist Oliver Boisseau attended the 8th International Marine Mammals of the Holarctic Conference which took place last week in St. Petersburg, Russia. Talks, posters and videos were presented, not just from the Arctic Ocean but also more enclosed water bodies, such as the Caspian Sea, Black Sea and Lake Ladoga. During theContinue Reading
Yesterday Song of the Whale arrived in St Katherine Docks London for the Thames Festival. Sailing up river, we were fortunate to meet the magnificent flotilla of Tall Ships heading out of London, in perfect September sunshine. As part of the Classic and working boat rally, you can come visit us this weekend (13th andContinue Reading
In 2014 we celebrate 25 years of the Song of the Whale research programme, so to mark this momentous year, we have collated all of the observations of marine mammals we have made in the last two decades in order to identify those areas and species with specific conservation needs. At first glance, this mapContinue Reading
On 20 April MCR’s archival acoustic recorder was deployed 100 km north of Cape Verde Islands on a German (GEOMAR) oceanographic mooring. The deployment was made from the RV Meteor during GEOMAR’s climate change research in the tropical Atlantic. The recorder will log acoustic data for up to 12 months at this site, generatingContinue Reading