For many years, the leading non-invasive way to identify whales and dolphins has been to use photo-identification. Some markings on certain parts of their bodies, such as tail flukes in some species or dorsal fin in others, can remain largely unchanged throughout their lives which enables scientists to closely follow the lives of individuals.
A new study published in the journal Marine Mammal Science has shown that facial recognition can also play a part in identification after scientists carried out tests to see if people could identify dolphins using this method alone. Not only was it successful but identification was possible when comparing one side of the face with the other.
The authors believe that while this method of identification cannot replace traditional photo-id techniques, it might be complementary in helping to identify individuals in certain species which lack characteristics such as an large dorsal fin, or young calves which have yet to pick up any identifiable markings.
Novel method for identifying individual cetaceans using facial features and symmetry: A test case using dolphins
Tilen Genov, Tina Centrih, Andrew J. Wright, Gi-Mick Wu
Marine Mammal Science