The robot fish developed by a team of researchers from NYU Tandon and the University of Western Australia, mimicks a predator largemouth bass.

It may be a valuable tool in the fight against one of the world’s most problematic invasive species, the mosquitofish. This is a problem especially in lakes and rivers where native fish and other wildlife have limited options for escape.

According to Maurizio Porfiri “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study using robots to evoke fear responses in this invasive species.”

Porfiri and the team of collaborators have published the first experiments to gauge the ability of a biologically inspired robotic fish to induce fear-related changes in mosquitofish.

Their findings indicate that even brief exposure to a robotic replica of the mosquitofish’s primary predator – the largemouth bass – can provoke meaningful stress responses in mosquitofish, triggering avoidance and the loss of energy reserves, translating into lower rates of reproduction.

In some trials, the robot fish was programmed to incorporate real-time feedback based on interactions with live mosquitofish and to exhibit “attacks” typical of predatory behavior – a rapid increase in swimming speed.

Interactions between the live fish and the replica were tracked in real time and analyzed to reveal correlations between the degree of biomimicry in the robot and the level of stress response exhibited by the live fish.

Fish exposed to robotic predators that most closely mimicked the aggressive, attack-oriented swimming patterns of real-life predators displayed the highest levels of behavioral and physiological stress responses.

The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates back to 1854. In addition to its main location in Brooklyn, NYU Tandon collaborates with other schools within NYU, one of the country’s foremost private research universities, and is closely connected to engineering programs at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai.

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