An Automated Photo-Identification Catalog for Studies of the Life History of the Florida Manatee

Many free-ranging Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) arescarred from encounters with boats, entanglement in fishing gear, or fungalinfections. A computer-based system, the Manatee Individual IdentificationSystem, was developed in 1988 to aid with cataloging manatees with distinctfeatures. An IBM PC-compatible 386 computer with a 150-Mbyte hard-disc driveis used with the system. A serial port connects the computer to a videodiscplayer that displays images on a 30.5 cm. NTSB, superfine-pitch color monitor.The foundation of the Manatee Individual Identification System catalog ishigh-quality photographs. Cataloging criteria are conservative and requiremanatees to be well photographed. A permanent unique feature must berecognizable in future photographs. Feature codes that describe each scar ormutilation of each individual are created and stored in a features database.Records of sightings (9,796; x = 10.7 animal) of all individuals (except of theBlue Spring residents, which are filed in a separate database) were updatedthrough 1991. The number of resightings of cataloged manatees is greatestduring December, January, and February when manatees are aggregated inwarm-water refugia. Most resightings are annual. The longest interval betweeninitial sighting and first resighting of one individual was 11 years. Thephoto-identification catalog has been useful for studies of populations thatinclude analyses of movements, reproduction traits, and survival.

Publisher - National Biological Service (NBS)

Subjects - Mammal, Manatee