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Development of individual recognition of female southern elephant seals, Mirounga leonina, from Punta Norte Península Valdés, applying principal components analysis

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Abstract Aim 

The development of software able to provide individual recognition of southern elephant seals, as a tool to study colonies. This analysis was performed within a framework of studies concerning environmental dispersion produced by the El Niño Southern Oscillation effect in the Southern Ocean Ecosystem. Location 

Digital photographs of reproductive female elephant seals were taken at Punta Norte (Península Valdés, Patagonia; 42°05′ S, 63°45′ W) during the 2002 breeding season (August to November). The data set under analysis is composed of 96 elephant seal images for a population of 56 individuals. Method 

Identification of specimens was carried out using digital pictures taken with a digital video camera, and processed through the ‘Eigenfaces’ method, which is based on principal components analysis. Special care was taken to control possible variations among images of the same individual, like distance, angle, light intensity, etc. To deal with these variations, an initial alignment procedure is proposed to have all images framed; in addition an initial histogram equalization was used which attenuates any potential variation in light intensity. The software was developed in IDL5.5 language. Results 

A complete set of empirical results is displayed showing the potential effectiveness of this technique. Individual recognition and pertinence to different population subsets (harems) tests have been carried out. A principal result of this work is that all 96 elephant seal images (representing 56 individuals) were correctly identified. Conclusion 

The Eigenfaces method can be used successfully for identification of elephant seals. With the appropriate preparatory treatment of images, high performance results can be expected.
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Keywords: Eigenfaces; Karhunen–Loève Transform; Mirounga leonina; Patagonia; Península Valdés; pattern identification; principal components analysis; southern elephant seals

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centro Nacional Patagónico, Cenpat-Conicet, Boulevard Alm. Brown, Puerto Madryn, Chubut, Argentina

Publication date: July 1, 2005

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