Earth Science News  





. Why A Whale Shark's Spots Could Help Save Its Skin

Whale sharks are listed as "vulnerable to extinction" by the World Conservation Union. 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.

Greenbelt MD (SPX) Oct 07, 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.

Related Links
SpaceDaily
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

Scientists Discover Genetic Key To Growing Hardier, More Productive Plants
Storrs CT (SPX) Oct 07, 2005
A team of scientists led by University of Connecticut plant biologist Roberto Gaxiola has discovered an overlooked genetic key to generating plants that are more productive, more drought resistant and can grow in soils low in nutrients.

.
Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
  



  • Half A Million Hurricane Victims Still Need Housing: FEMA Director
  • Global Space Charter To Include Disaster Management
  • Real-Time Pictures From Satellites To Be Used For Disaster Management
  • Some Storm Victims Still Lack Healthcare

  • Scientists Investigate Ocean's Role In Carbon Cycle, Global Warming
  • Climate Change More Rapid Than Ever?
  • Sun's Direct Role In Global Warming May Be Underestimated: Physicists
  • Paleoclimatology: A Record From The Deep

  • World's First Geologic Map Is Displayed
  • A Space Station View On Giant Lightning
  • Health Of Coral Reefs Detected From Orbit
  • MERIS/AATSR Workshop Looks At Twin Sensors With Many Uses

  • Research Advances Understanding Of How Hydrogen Fuel Is Made
  • U.S. Army Exhibits Successful Fuel Cell
  • Heated Energy Debate In Germany
  • DOE Publishes Roadmap For New Biological Research For Energy Needs

  • Injured Soldiers Bring Home Rare Infection
  • Scientists Replicate Deadly 1918 Flu Virus
  • China Reluctant To Share Bird-Flu Samples
  • Senate Approves $3.9 Billion For Bird Flu

  • Scientists Discover Genetic Key To Growing Hardier, More Productive Plants
  • Why A Whale Shark's Spots Could Help Save Its Skin
  • Rhythm Gene Discovered
  • A New Angle On Flowers: Fish Are Players In Pollination

  • UCSD Leads Team To Build Geographic Information System To Assess Toxic Hazards From Katrina
  • Environment Group Names Europe's 'Dirty Thirty' Power Stations
  • Shredded Tires A Cheap, Environmentally Friendly Way To Cover Landfills
  • Marine Scientists Collaborate To Predict Flow Of Toxic Waters From Katrina

  • Scientists Uncover Why Picture Perception Works
  • The Roots Of Civilization Trace Back To ... Roots
  • The Mechanics Of Foot Travel
  • Compound May Prevent Neuron-Degeneration

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement