It provides useful information to support freshwater and marine environmental management, to predict fish migration routes and assess the likely impact of human intervention on fish populations.
"We've proven it's possible to use robotic fish to study relationships between individuals and shoal dynamics as well as the behaviour of individual fish," says PhD student Jolyon Faria who led the experiments. "In the past, we had to watch a shoal and change environmental conditions to see how that affected behaviour. Because the robotic fish is accepted by the shoal, we can use it to control one or several individuals, which allows us to study quite complex situations such as aggressive, cooperative, anti-predator and parental behaviour."
The computer controlled replica - dubbed Robofish by its creators John Dyer, Dr Dean Waters and Natalie Holt - is a plaster cast model of a three-spined stickleback with an acetate fin, painted to mimic the coloration and markings of a real fish. The scientists needed to prove that Robofish was accepted into the group sufficiently for the fish to respond to the robot like a normal shoal member.
"Although Robofish looked like a stickleback to us, we weren't sure whether the other fish would see it in the same light," explained Jolyon. "We also thought there might be a problem with the smell, as fish use chemical cues in the water to identify other shoal members. In the end, Robofish was accepted straight away - though we did trial various models until we found one that worked the best."
Robofish was placed in a tank with either single fish or a group of ten, and then programmed to follow a set path at a slightly faster speed than normal fish. The aim was to see if Robofish could tempt other fish to leave the tank's refuge area and convince its companions to make a 90 degree turn.
Single fish left the refuge much sooner if Robofish instigated the move than they would on their own, though groups of fish left quite quickly without other motivation. Robofish was able to persuade both single fish and groups to make a turn. However, the longer time the fish spent in the tank, the less likely they were to display shoaling activity either on their own or in response to Robofish.
"Because Robofish moved faster and without stopping and tended to be at the front or on the edge of the shoal, the other fish saw it as bold and definite in its actions, which encouraged them to follow," said Jolyon. "The fish were more easily influenced by a bolder member when they were nervous in new surroundings. Once they'd got used to the tank, they moved round quite happily to explore the tank, rather than moving in unison as they did at the start."
The experiments - funded through the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council - have also allowed the researchers to answer a long-standing question of group dynamics: whether an individual's ability to influence a group is dependent on how close together its members are. In fact, when Robofish turned, its nearest neighbour did turn first, but it made no difference whether they were 9cm or 33cm away from the robot. Most models of group dynamics are based on the assumption that the closer you are to your neighbour the more influence you have, but this study has added weight to the argument that relative, rather than metric distance, is more important.
Photos of Robofish and videos of the experiments are available. Jolyon Faria is available for interview.Further information:
University of Leeds Press Office. Tel 0113 343 4031, Email firstname.lastname@example.orgNotes to editors
2. Jolyon Faria is in the final year of his PhD in the Institute of Integrative & Comparative Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds. He was joined in the research by John Dyer, Dean Waters and Natalie Holt of the University of Leeds, Jens Krause and Romain Clement, formerly of Leeds and now at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology & Inland Fisheries, Iain Couzin formerly of Leeds and now at Princeton University and Ashley Ward, also formerly of Leeds and now at the University of Sydney.
3. The Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds is one of the largest in the UK, with over 150 academic staff and over 400 postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate students. The Faculty is ranked 4th in the UK (Nature Journal, 457 (2009) doi :10.1038/457013a) based on results of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The RAE feedback noted that "virtually all outputs were assessed as being recognized internationally, with many (60%) being internationally excellent or world-leading" in quality. The Faculty's research grant portfolio totals some £60M and funders include charities, research councils, the European Union and industry. www.fbs.leeds.ac.uk
4. The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise showed the University of Leeds to be the UK's eighth biggest research powerhouse. The University is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. The University's vision is to secure a place among the world's top 50 by 2015. www.leeds.ac.uk5. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:
The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Studies (Aberystwyth University), Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre, The Genome Analysis Centre, The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) and Rothamsted Research. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.
Global threat to primates concerns us all
19.01.2017 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung
Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences