3D analyses of scapulae of Dutch whales and dolphins

3d image of dolphin scapulae

Selecting and photographing whale shoulder blades (scapulae) in 3D for identification of stranded whales and dolphins on the Dutch coast.

The need for 3D images of Dutch whale and dolphin scapulae
Over 9000 stranded whales and dolphins have been recorded along the Dutch shores since 1255 when the first records were documented (www.walvisstrandingen.nl). For degraded carcasses identification to the correct species is not so easy and mistakes are therefore sometimes made. This is a pity as knowledge on the status of different species in our waters is crucial for a better understanding of their biology and the ecosystem of the southern North Sea in general. It is well known that the size and shape of the shoulder blades (scapulae) provide good identification tools. These bones are often still present in a stranded carcass as they are firmly embedded in the body and therefore less easy to disappear during the decaying process. Illustrations of scapulae of whales and dolphins are highly scattered in literature and sometimes difficult to interpret due to the use of old taxonomic names. This makes identification of stranded carcasses based on scapulae currently a tedious process.

Goal of this internship
The student is expected to select representative scapulae deposited in Naturalis Biodiversity Center of all 26 whale and dolphin species recorded for the Netherlands. These scapulae need to be photographed in the 3D lab of LiveScience with a professional setup including a measuring scale. The resulting photographs need to be assembled in 3D software (Agisoft PhotoScan, ArcheOs, Aviso, Blender, Meshlab) to produce representative 3D images based on photogrammetry. Finally, the images need to be uploaded to the Naturalis 3D imaging site (3d.naturalis.nl) and linked to www.walvisstrandingen.nl. If time permits, an interactive identification key can be built with Linnaeus NG software. With these tools, identification of remains of whales and dolphins found along the Dutch shores can be done much faster and more accurately by anyone finding a stranded carcass still containing scapulae. 

Supervision:  Dick Groenenberg, Edwin van Spronsen, Guido Keijl and Barbara Gravendeel

Contact: barbara.gravendeel@naturalis.nl

Period & duration: minimum of 5 months

Study level: Applied Biology, (Bio)informatics; Biology; Graphical Design, LifeSciences, (HBO, BSc or MSc)