Methods of developing user-friendly keys to identify green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas L.) from photographs

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Authors: Lloyd, J.R., Maldonado, M.A. and Stafford, R.

Journal: International Journal of Zoology

eISSN: 1687-8485

ISSN: 1687-8477

DOI: 10.1155/2012/317568

Identifying individual animals is important in understanding their ecology and behaviour, as well as providing estimates of population sizes for conservation efforts. We produce identification keys from photographs of green sea turtles to identify them while foraging in Akumal Bay, Mexico. We create three keys, which (a) minimise the length of the key, (b) present the most obvious differential characteristics first, and (c) remove the strict dichotomy from key b. Keys were capable of identifying >99% of turtles in >2500 photographs during the six-month study period. The keys differed significantly in success rate for students to identify individual turtles, with key (c) being the best with >70% success and correctly being followed further than other keys before making a mistake. User-friendly keys are, therefore, a suitable method for the photographic identification of turtles and could be used for other large marine vertebrates in conservation or behavioural studies. © 2012 Jane R. Lloyd et al.

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