Zebrafish Want to Hang Out With 3-D Robotic Models of Themselves Say Scientists

Posted on October 25, 2016

Zebrafish and robot model in tank

Scientists have determined that zebrafish want to hang out with moving 3-D robotic models of themselves. Researchers at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering build the robotic models and found zebrafish engage with them more than other stimuli. These robotic zebrafish also mimic the swimming patterns of real fish.

The research team was headed by Maurizio Porfiri, professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Porfiri and his team introduced the live zebrafish in the middle section of a three-compartment experimental tank with the robotic fish and an empty section on either side. The researchers contrasted the response of live fish to the 3D-moving robot, a 2D-moving replica, a static replica, a transparent replica, and a non-moving rod. The researchers found the fish were attracted to a robot that mimicked both the appearance and the motion of real fish. The zebrafish was less interested in replicas and stimuli that did not resemble a zebrafish and models that did not mimic fish-like swimming motions.

Porfiri says in a statement, "The fish, when presented with the choice between a static robot and one that was moving in 3D and beating its tail, preferred to spend time with the latter. This clarifies the important role motion plays in influencing zebrafish behavior. These experiments also significantly refined the robotic platform that enables consistent, repeatable tests with our live subjects."

Zebrafish next to zebrafish robot


A research paper on the study was published here in the journal, Royal Society Open Science.

Photos: NYU Tandon
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