Sharks play an essential rol in the health of our oceans

Photo identification

Photographic identification is widely used in the studies of white sharks, whale sharks and rays. It is non-invasive and allows animals to be identified without direct interaction and therefore is ideally suited for studying protected species. The research is also less invasive, as the animals can be identified from a much greater distance and there is no need to attach or implant tags.

In several shark and ray species, the coloring patterns are analogous to human fingerprints and are unique to each individual and hence can be used for identification. Photo identification represents a dynamic identification system: notches will appear, and evolve in shape and size with time, hence photographic identification is a reliable tool in an ongoing project that allows tracking of these evolving changes and adapting the database.


The natural spot patterns on the underside of manta rays can be used to distinguish between individuals. Researchers are now using these natural markings to keep track of different population and examine their movements around the world. Contributing to this ongoing work is a way for the public to engage in the so-called ‘Citizen Science’ (see corresponding page). Divers and snorkellers can help researchers by submitting sightings and pictures.


The spot pattern of whale sharks is unique as well. Each individual can be recognized by the specific markings on its skin.


Great white sharks can be identified by the unique markings on the gill area, pelvic fin and tail area.










The sex of individual sharks rays can identified by the presence of claspers, the male reproductive organ which is found by the pelvic fin.


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