STERapp: Semiautomatic Software for Stereological Analysis. Application in the Estimation of Fish Fecundity

Stereology is the tridimensional interpretation of bidimensional sections of a structure, widely used in fields such as mineralogy, medicine, and biology. This paper proposes a general software to do stereological analysis, called STERapp, with a friendly graphical interface to enable expert supervision. It includes a module to estimate fish fecundity (number of mature oocytes in the ovary), which has been used by experts in fish biology in two Spanish marine research centers since 2020 to estimate the fecundity of five fish species with different reproductive strategies and oocytes characteristics. This module encloses advanced computer vision and machine learning techniques to automatically recognize and classify the cells in histological images of fish gonads. The automatic recognition algorithm achieved a sensitivity of 55.6%, a specificity of 64.8%, and an average precision of 43.1%. The accuracies achieved for oocyte classification were 84.5% for the maturity stages and 78.5% for the classification regarding presence/absence of the nucleus. This facilitates the analysis and saves experts’ time. Hence, the SUS questionnaire reported a mean score of 81.9, which means that the system was perceived from good to excellent to develop stereological analysis for the estimation of fish fecundity.

keywords: stereology, texture analysis, classification, support vector machine, software engineering, image segmentation, fecundity methods, oocytes, recognition, Weibel grid