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In this paper, we define a connected operator that either fills or retains the holes of the connected sets depending on application-specific criteria that are increasing in the set theoretic sense. We refer to this class of connected operators as inclusion filters, which are shown to be increasing, idempotent, and self dual (gray-level inversion invariance). We demonstrate self duality for 8-adjacency on a discrete Cartesian grid. Inclusion filters are defined first for binary-valued images, and then the definition is extended to grayscale imagery. It is also shown that inclusion filters are levelings, a larger class of connected operators. Several important applications of inclusion filters are demonstrated-automatic segmentation of the lung cavities from magnetic resonance imagery, user interactive shape delineation in content-based image retrieval, registration of intravital microscopic video sequences, and detection and tracking of cells from these sequences. The numerical performance measures on 100-cell tracking experiments show that the use of inclusion filter improves the total number of frames successfully tracked by five times and provides a threefold reduction in the overall position error.