Whale Species ID

Photo-identification of whales has been used as a tool of science since the 1960’s. Researchers photograph distinct markings on the bodies of whales to help track them. Through photo-identification we can learn:

  • How many animals are in the area (you get to count them as individuals)
  • Where they go and who they associate with
  • How many males and females there are in the population
  • Calving rates of known females
  • How long they live (and other life history information)

HUMPBACK WHALES are identified by patterns of white and black pigment on the undersides of their tails. Scratches and irregularities in trailing edge patterns and missing sections of the tails help in tracking known individuals.

“TOOTHED” WHALES can be identified by the trailing edges on their dorsal fins, injuries that create long-term marks, and “cookie-cutter” bite marks that heal into blotches (i.e. beaked whales).