Behaviour 2019
Photo identification of the Eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) using i3S Spot
Shakira S. Jinez, Robin L. Foster. Canisius College, Buffalo, NY, United States

The ability to identify individuals plays a key role in ecological and behavioral studies but often relies on invasive techniques that elicit stress. Less invasive alternative methods may offer the opportunity to observe natural behaviors that could otherwise be affected by traditional marking techniques. Photo-based pattern recognition has recently emerged as an effective noninvasive method for the individual identification of some herpetofauna species by identifying individuals by their unique patterns and markings. We assessed the effectiveness and accuracy of I3S Spot identification software for individual identification of Eastern Hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) via their unique spotting patterns. Preliminary results indicate that I3S Spot may be an effective means of identification for adults of this species.  Further research is warranted to determine the applicability of this technique to larval and subadult individuals. Currently, there is no safe and reliable way of marking young individuals for field studies. The ability to identify individual hellbenders in this way offers potential new methods for studying the behavior of this sensitive salamander in situ.