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Contributions of photographs to cetacean science

TitleContributions of photographs to cetacean science
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsBallance LT
JournalAquatic Mammals
Date Published2018/10
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0167-5427
Accession NumberWOS:000449756400009
KeywordsAerial; bottle-nosed dolphins; cetaceans; eastern tropical pacific; eating killer whales; humpback whales; line-transect; Marine & Freshwater Biology; mark-recapture methods; megaptera-novaeangliae; methods; north pacific; orcinus-orca; photo-identification; Photogrammetry; porpoises tursiops-truncatus; school size calibration; stenella-longirostris; zoology

Over four decades ago, a short paper demonstrated how photographs of free-swimming dolphins could be used to reveal scientific information about cetaceans. That paper, and a few others published during the same time period, illustrated a research technique that has become foundational in the field of marine mammalogy and resulted in a cascade of science. Photographs can be used to identify individuals, providing insights into movements, migrations, site fidelity, school structure and stability, and abundance. Photographs can be used to estimate group size and improve the precision of abundance estimates. Photographs can characterize reproductive output at the population level. Photographs allow for quantification of morphology, yielding insights into classification at a variety of taxonomic levels; and they provide a means to assess the condition and health of individual animals. And photographs can provide insights into behavior. The information photographs convey and their applications to cetacean research are ever-increasing. Ultimately, photographs have provided a high-quality and relatively inexpensive means to increase the knowledge base for most cetacean species in all of the oceans of the world through research conducted by scientists of developed and developing nations, and through citizen science conducted by non-scientists.

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