Applicability of Single-Camera Photogrammetry to Determine Body Dimensions of Pinnipeds: Galapagos Sea Lions as an Example

Kristine Meise, Birte Mueller, Beate Zein, Fritz Trillmich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Morphological features correlate with many life history traits and are therefore of high interest to behavioral and evolutionary biologists. Photogrammetry provides a useful tool to collect morphological data from species for which measurements are otherwise difficult to obtain. This method reduces disturbance and avoids capture stress. Using the Galapagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeki) as a model system, we tested the applicability of single-camera photogrammetry in combination with laser distance measurement to estimate morphological traits which may vary with an animal’s body position. We assessed whether linear morphological traits estimated by photogrammetry can be used to estimate body length and mass. We show that accurate estimates of body length (males: ±2.0%, females: ±2.6%) and reliable estimates of body mass are possible (males: ±6.8%, females: 14.5%). Furthermore, we developed correction factors that allow the use of animal photos that diverge somewhat from a flat-out position. The product of estimated body length and girth produced sufficiently reliable estimates of mass to categorize individuals into 10 kg-classes of body mass. Data of individuals repeatedly photographed within one season suggested relatively low measurement errors (body length: 2.9%, body mass: 8.1%). In order to develop accurate sex- and age-specific correction factors, a sufficient number of individuals from both sexes and from all desired age classes have to be captured for baseline measurements. Given proper validation, this method provides an excellent opportunity to collect morphological data for large numbers of individuals with minimal disturbance.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere101197
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2014


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