Underwater tourist photos help scientists track individual whale sharks

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Wow, posting your underwater holiday photos online could help conservationists track the movements of whale sharks, a new study finds, led by a researcher from Imperial College London. They compared results using tourist images with results based on surveys by marine researchers specifically aiming to track the sharks, and found that individual whale sharks could be successfully identified in 85 per cent of cases, surprisingly close to the 100 per cent identification possible in photographs taken by researchers. Read Wired

Speaking about the results, Davies said: “Globally, this outcome provides strong support for the scientific use of photographs taken by tourists for whale shark monitoring. Hopefully, this will give whale shark research around the world confidence in using this source of free data. In the Maldives in particular, where whale shark tourism is well established and very useful for collecting data from throughout the archipelago, our results suggest that whale shark monitoring effort should be focused on collecting tourist photographs.”

Whale Shark Watching

Image courtesy of Henning Lewecke, CC BY-SA 2.0

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