Our Pilot Whale Project

Photo identification - pilot whales
Photo Identification - Pilot Whales

To give you a short insight into our research work, we'd like to list some points of interest from our pilot whale project for you.

Since we started our work, we have gained deep knowledge on the various marine mammal populations present in the Strait of Gibraltar. Now we know that 12 to 15 families of pilot whales live or at least regularly spend some time in the Strait.

With our research project on the pilot whales in the Strait of Gibraltar we want to find out more on:

  • populations sizes
  • social structures
  • migration habits

This we do by the following means:

  • observation
  • taking important data
  • photo identification

We have found out that more than 150 pilot whales are at least temporarily in the Strait of Gibraltar. Some of these animals we can observe quite regularly so that we have been able to deepen our knowledge on their feeding habits and social behaviour.

Photo Identification

Photo identification is a very important mean to learn more about whales and dolphins. Every whale has a unique dorsal fin. They differ in height and shape and might even bear scars from attacks or accidents. We take photos of the whales' dorsal fins (exactly in profile if possible). As we work with digital cameras, date and exact time of sighting are automatically recorded. Later these photos can be assigned to their data sheets that contain further information taken during our excursions. The photos together with the information from the data sheet enable us to draw further conclusions on the behaviour of the animals.

The photos you can see on this page show how unique the shapes of the dorsal fins are (similarly unique as a human fingerprint).

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