Drones give new insight into dolphin ages

By knowing their ages, researchers can gauge the health of dolphin populations

Using drones, researchers have been able to capture photos of dolphins in the wild that allow them to estimate their age. Biologists say that will help them monitor the health of dolphin populations and aid in conservation efforts.

In the study published in Ecology and Evolution, researchers captured images of the dolphins as they came to the surface to breathe. By measuring the distance between their blowhole and dorsal fin, the researchers could estimate their body length, and as a result, their age.

“Our hope in developing and using this method is that we can quickly monitor the health of free-ranging dolphin populations,” said Fabien Vivier, lead author of the study and marine biology doctoral candidate at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. “This may facilitate the detection of early signs of population changes, for example, a decrease in the number of calves, and provide important insights for timely management decisions.”

Read more from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Header Image: Drone photography can give biologists a way to estimate the age of dolphins. That can help them determine the health of their populations. Credit: USFWS