The Wildbook for Whale Sharks photo-identification library is a visual database of whale shark (Rhincodon typus) encounters and of individually catalogued whale sharks. The library is maintained and used by marine biologists to collect and analyze whale shark sighting data to learn more about these amazing creatures.
The Wildbook uses photographs of the skin patterning behind the gills of each shark, and any scars, to distinguish between individual animals. Cutting-edge software supports rapid identification using pattern recognition and photo management tools.
You too can assist with whale shark research, by submitting photos and sighting data. The information you submit will be used in mark-recapture studies to help with the global conservation of this threatened species.
- 1. Photograph an animal
- 2. Submit photo/video
- 3. Researcher verification
- 4. Matching process
- 5. Match result
Photograph the spots behind the gills
Each whale shark has an individual fingerprint: the pattern of spots behind the gills on the left or right sides. Get an image or video of their “print” and we can match that pattern to others already in the database, or your whale shark might be completely new to the database.
See the photography guide
You can upload files from your computer, or take them directly from your Flickr or Facebook account. Be sure to enter when and where you saw the shark, and add other information, such as scarring and sex, if you can. You will receive email updates when your animal is processed by a researcher.
When you submit an identification photo, a local researcher receives a notification. This researcher will double check that the information you submitted is correct and add any additional information.
Once a researcher is happy with all the data accompanying the identification photo using two spot pattern matching algorithms. The algorithms are like facial recognition software for animal patterns.
The algorithm (or manual comparison) provides researchers with a ranked selection of possible matches. Researchers will then visually confirm a match to an existing whale shark in the database, or create a new individual profile.