Fish Accept Robot As One of Their Own
Three spined sticklebacks have accepted an odd member into their school - an aquatic robot designed to look and act exactly like the rest of them. Scientists have created a remote controlled stickleback, and they can influence how the fishes act by directing the robofish to turn, swim faster or stop.
The first time scientists placed the robofish into the tank with 10 other fish, the sticklebacks were quick to leave their refuge follow its lead. They began to follow the robofish; when it turned, they turned; when it stopped, they stopped.
"We were surprised the fish followed even our first prototype of the robotic fish," explains Jolyon Faria, a PhD student from the University of Leeds. "We thought it would take many different prototypes before we could convince the fish that the robotic fish was one of them."
Interestingly, sticklebacks seem to respond better to the robofish as their fearless leader than live sticklebacks. The study's authors believe this is due to a number of reasons. First, the robofish moves faster than real fish, which indicates to the school that they could learn something from it. Second, the robofish was at the front of the school, and previous studies have shown that bolder individuals have more influence over the school.
"Because robofish moved faster, without stopping and tended to be at the front or edge of the shoal, the other fish saw it as bold and definite in its actions, which encouraged them to follow," explains Faria.
Lauren Admire kept writing Nickelback instead of stickleback.