A note on a prototype system for simple computer-assisted matching of individually identified southern right whales, Eubalaena australis

Main Article Content

Stephen R. Burnell
David Shanahan


A system using computer assistance in the matching of the callosity patterns of individual southern right whales is described. When
provided with a digitised representation of an individual whale’s callosity pattern, the prototype system produces a hierarchical output of
the most similar patterns in the database with relatively high accuracy. A trial database of binary images of the callosity patterns of 165
individually identified southern right whales was created. A further two replicates each of nine different individual whales within the trial
database, were then created by two different operators, producing a test set of 18 images. A software program, utilising a pattern recognition
algorithm and incorporating a mouse driven user interface, was developed so that when provided with a binary bitmap of an individual
whale from the test set, the program compares it against a trial database of previously saved bitmaps and produces a hierarchical output
of the most similar whales, or nearest ‘matches’. For 15 of the 18 test images (83%), the system returned the correct whale as the top match
out of the 165 in the trial database. For the remaining three test images the correct whale was the second, sixth and sixteenth ranked whale
in the trial database containing 165 whales. The program was successful in reducing the number of individuals required for manual
comparison to a small percentage of the total catalogue, with a high degree of accuracy, and with a significant associated time saving. It
is envisaged that the final matching will continue to be done visually by an experienced operator using the original photographs. Further
refinement of the system with the aim of streamlining and simplifying the input process and incorporating partial pattern recognition is

Article Details