Comparison between transformers and convolutional models for fine-grained classification of insects

by   Rita Pucci, et al.

Fine-grained classification is challenging due to the difficulty of finding discriminatory features. This problem is exacerbated when applied to identifying species within the same taxonomical class. This is because species are often sharing morphological characteristics that make them difficult to differentiate. We consider the taxonomical class of Insecta. The identification of insects is essential in biodiversity monitoring as they are one of the inhabitants at the base of many ecosystems. Citizen science is doing brilliant work of collecting images of insects in the wild giving the possibility to experts to create improved distribution maps in all countries. We have billions of images that need to be automatically classified and deep neural network algorithms are one of the main techniques explored for fine-grained tasks. At the SOTA, the field of deep learning algorithms is extremely fruitful, so how to identify the algorithm to use? We focus on Odonata and Coleoptera orders, and we propose an initial comparative study to analyse the two best-known layer structures for computer vision: transformer and convolutional layers. We compare the performance of T2TViT, a fully transformer-base, EfficientNet, a fully convolutional-base, and ViTAE, a hybrid. We analyse the performance of the three models in identical conditions evaluating the performance per species, per morph together with sex, the inference time, and the overall performance with unbalanced datasets of images from smartphones. Although we observe high performances with all three families of models, our analysis shows that the hybrid model outperforms the fully convolutional-base and fully transformer-base models on accuracy performance and the fully transformer-base model outperforms the others on inference speed and, these prove the transformer to be robust to the shortage of samples and to be faster at inference time.


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