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How do we know which whales we see?

Update from the field: we identified the group G long finned Pilot whales matching Photo ID (photo identification) and sounds recordings!

Weather conditions are not always good enough for going out, but we still have much work to do at “home”, especially with Photo identification and acoustic data collected during the field work. 

Great news when we were analyzing the last photos ID taken! Thanks to the pilot whales ID catalogue that Ocean sounds team built up in the last years of dedicated research, we were able to match the group of pilot whales we saw with a pod spotted 12 years ago! While analyzing the photo ID we looked at a very distinctive marking on the dorsal fin of one of the individuals, and it matched with one of the catalogue, making the whole team enthusiastic about this amazing discovery and motivated to possibly identify others individuals of the same pod! 

The protagonist of this amazing match is G 3, a female pilot whale belonging to the group G, that in 2008 was spotted in these waters with her calf!!

This shows the importance of photo ID monitoring technique in conservation! Why is it so?

Photo identification plays an important role in the field of conservation science. It’s a non-invasive method that can help researchers to estimate population abundance and monitor the trends over time, therefore making it possible to manage the recovery of endangered species.

The photo ID it's also the first evidence that can link to a more detailed description of the individuals, opening the possibility to further understand the characteristics of the population observed.

This photo ID’s match brought us to compare the acoustic data collected when we were taking photo IDs from now with the sound recordings collected in 2008 and we were able to identify them as group G.

It's possible to identify pilot whales’ groups via sound because they are living in a matrilineal society, they can have group-specific call-types, which allow us to recognize them.

Curious to listen to their calls?? Listen to our short sound examples!

And check out our scientific publication for more information about group specific vocalization

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