Funny Fins Happen
Photographs are used to follow the progress of dolphins and study their health, social behavior, movements, reproductive patterns and population size. Researchers take photographs of naturally marked dorsal fins (this is where the dolphins often have long lasting nicks or scars) and report back on the dolphin activities they have seen in the field. These photos are processed and compared against a catalog of photographs of previously identified dolphins. The catalogs are organized into categories of distinct fin shapes and each of the shape categories are further divided into subcategories denoting regions where the predominant fin damage is present. However, if the markings on a dolphin change significantly, the animal can be difficult to identify as the same individual. As not all fins have markings, and the catalog process is very time consuming, the WDF uses FinScan software and Mark-Recpature analysis to stay at the cutting edge.