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Zebra Barcodes

April 25, 2011

Zebra stripes resemble barcodes, and could help researchers keep track of each member of the herd.



Barcoding zebras…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Keeping track of the individuals that make up a group of animals is essential to the study of ecology and behavior. But identifying each animal is time consuming and prone to error. Now computer scientists at the University of Illinois, Chicago have teamed up with ecologists at Princeton to identify individual zebras by their stripes. Mayank Lahiri of the University of Illinois went to Kenya to test the specialized software.

MAYANK LAHIRI (University of Illinois, Chicago):

It used to take on average about 2-3 minutes per zebra with the old system that they had, but with our new new system, all the user has to do is draw a box around the body of the zebra, from a photograph, and it does a database scan which is usually really quick and usually you get results in under 2-3 seconds.


Lahiri says theoretically, the program, called Stripespotter, could be used to identify any animal with distinct stripes. I’m Bob Hirshon, dor AAAS, the science society.