News & Notes: Researchers find technology to identify zebras based on stripes
Researchers at Princeton’s Equid Research and Conservation laboratory and at the Computational Population Biology laboratory at the University of Illinois have developed a new technology called StripeSpotter that allows biologists to identify and catalog zebras by reading their stripes like barcodes.
The open-source application, which is provided free for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, allows researchers to crop a particularly prominent selection of striping from a normal point-and-shoot camera photo and use it as a thumbprint to identify the individual zebra. Biologists can also link the photo to details of the sighting, such as field notes and GPS coordinates.
If there is already an instance of the specific animal in the system, researchers can pull up details of the previous encounter.
The creators of StripeSpotter, who will present a paper on the new program at the International Conference on Multimedia Retrieval this month, are currently working on assembling a database of Plains zebras and Grevys zebras in Kenya.
The technology likely can work on other animals, such as giraffes or tigers, that can be identified by distinctive striping or spotting patterns, researchers said.
Sooner or later, we humans will all have barcodes on our bottoms…