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Background: Long-term research of known individuals is critical for understanding the demographic and evolutionary processes that influence natural populations. Current methods for individual identification of many animals include capture and tagging techniques and/or researcher knowledge of natural variation in individual phenotypes. These methods can be costly, time-consuming, and may be impractical for larger-scale, populationlevel studies. Accordingly, for many animal lineages, long-term research projects are often limited to only a few taxa. Lemurs, a mammalian lineage endemic to Madagascar, are no exception. Long-term data needed to address evolutionary questions are lacking for many species. This is, at least in part, due to difficulties collecting consistent data on known individuals over long periods of time. Here, we present a new method for individual identification of lemurs (LemurFaceID). LemurFaceID is a computer-assisted facial recognition system that can be used to identify individual lemurs based on photographs.

Results: LemurFaceID was developed using patch-wise Multiscale Local Binary Pattern features and modified facial image normalization techniques to reduce the effects of facial hair and variation in ambient lighting on identification. We trained and tested our system using images from wild red-bellied lemurs (Eulemur rubriventer) collected in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. Across 100 trials, with different partitions of training and test sets, we demonstrate that the LemurFaceID can achieve 98.7% ± 1.81% accuracy (using 2-query image fusion) in correctly identifying individual lemurs.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that human facial recognition techniques can be modified for identification of individual lemurs based on variation in facial patterns. LemurFaceID was able to identify individual lemurs based on photographs of wild individuals with a relatively high degree of accuracy. This technology would remove many limitations of traditional methods for individual identification. Once optimized, our system can facilitate long-term research of known individuals by providing a rapid, cost-effective, and accurate method for individual identification.


This work was originally published in BMC Zoology, available at DOI: 10.1186/s40850-016-0011-9.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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