Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 228–235 | Cite as

A video multitracking system for quantification of individual behavior in a large fish shoal: Advantages and limits

  • Johann Delcourt
  • Christophe Becco
  • Nicolas Vandewalle
  • Pascal Poncin


The capability of a new multitracking system to track a large number of unmarked fish (up to 100) is evaluated. This system extrapolates a trajectory from each individual and analyzes recorded sequences that are several minutes long. This system is very efficient in statistical individual tracking, where the individual’s identity is important for a short period of time in comparison with the duration of the track. Individual identification is typically greater than 99%. Identification is largely efficient (more than 99%) when the fish images do not cross the image of a neighbor fish. When the images of two fish merge (occlusion), we consider that the spot on the screen has a double identity. Consequently, there are no identification errors during occlusions, even though the measurement of the positions of each individual is imprecise. When the images of these two merged fish separate (separation), individual identification errors are more frequent, but their effect is very low in statistical individual tracking. On the other hand, in complete individual tracking, where individual fish identity is important for the entire trajectory, each identification error invalidates the results. In such cases, the experimenter must observe whether the program assigns the correct identification, and, when an error is made, must edit the results. This work is not too costly in time because it is limited to the separation events, accounting for fewer than 0.1% of individual identifications. Consequently, in both statistical and rigorous individual tracking, this system allows the experimenter to gain time by measuring the individual position automatically. It can also analyze the structural and dynamic properties of an animal group with a very large sample, with precision and sampling that are impossible to obtain with manual measures.


Individual Identification Physical Review Letter Identification Error Fish School Fish Image 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johann Delcourt
    • 1
  • Christophe Becco
    • 1
  • Nicolas Vandewalle
    • 1
  • Pascal Poncin
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavioural Biology Unit: Ethology and Animal Psychology, Department of Environmental Sciences and Management, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of LiègeLiègeBelgium

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