A simple laser photogrammetry technique for measuring Hector's dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori) in the field



The ability to measure and age individuals within a population has many important applications, for example, for examining growth and determining size class. We developed a simple photogrammetric system using two parallel lasers and a digital camera, in order to measure dorsal fin dimensions of free-ranging Hector's dolphins. Laser dots were projected onto the fin, providing scale, thus allowing measurement as well as simultaneous photo-ID of 34 individuals from fin nicks and other marks. Multiple measurements (≥5) were available for six individuals; these resulted in mean CVs of 3.71% for fin length and 3.76% for fin height. Errors due to variations in angle and measurement were quantified via photography of a fiberglass Hector's dolphin model. Allometric measurements and age data were collated from 233 autopsied Hector's dolphins. Using these data, fin length was found to be a better predictor of total length (females r2= 0.732, males r2= 0.678) than fin height. Gompertz age/length growth curves were fitted to these individuals. Linear regressions were used to estimate total length for 34 individuals from laser-metrically estimated fin base length. Individuals were then assigned one of three age categories. This system shows promise as a noninvasive way of measuring individuals, while allowing simultaneous photographic identification.