Thomas Ryback, Poland asked:
I understand that fingerprints are very useful because they provide the ability to grip surfaces better as well as be identified. I was wondering about the wrinkles you see on animals. Do they effectively have a fingerprint pattern in the same way, specifically marine creatures, as our fingerprints?
It’s a great question. Thanks very much for that and actually something that I (Helen) have looked at myself. It is not maybe wrinkles but patterns that animals have, that fish have on their faces and the ability to actually identify individuals. I did a study of a huge fish called the humphead wrasse or Maori wrasse, which are beautiful big reef creatures by taking photographs of their patterns, beautiful patterns. They’re called Maori wrasse because they look a bit like the tattoos that New Zealand indigenous people have on their faces. I could actually identify individual fish and look at when they were coming to mate and how they were aggregating in one particular area. I think yes absolutely, fish can have these identifiable features on them. I don’t know about wrinkles.
The other thing we have with things like whales and dolphins is that lots of things grow on them: barnacles and little bits of creatures and things like that. People doing population assessments can also count whales by taking photographs of their tails and the nooks and crannies they have on their huge flukes as they come up to dive, and that can help you to identify how many you’ve got in a population.