Look out, invasive species: The robots are coming

Look out, invasive species: The robots are coming
The research team designed a robot that mimicked a predator largemouth bass in appearance and swimming motions. Even 15 minutes of exposure per week was sufficient to decrease the energy of healthy specimens of the highly invasive species mosquitofish. Credit: NYU Tandon: Mert Karakaya

Invasive species control is notoriously challenging, especially in lakes and rivers where native fish and other wildlife have limited options for escape. In his laboratory's latest foray into using biomimetic robots to understand and modify animal behavior, NYU Tandon School of Engineering Professor Maurizio Porfiri led an interdisciplinary team of researchers from NYU Tandon and the University of Western Australia toward demonstrating how robotic fish can be a valuable tool in the fight against one of the world's most problematic invasive species, the mosquitofish.

Found in freshwater lakes and rivers worldwide, soaring mosquitofish populations have decimated and amphibian populations, and attempts to control the species through toxicants or trapping often fail or cause harm to local wildlife.

Porfiri and a team of collaborators have published the first experiments to gauge the ability of a biologically inspired 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 behaviors and physiological changes associated with the loss of energy reserves, potentially translating into lower rates of reproduction.

The paper, "Behavioural and Life-History Responses of Mosquitofish to Biologically Inspired and Interactive Robotic Predators," appears in the current issue of the Journal of the Journal of The Royal Society Interface.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study using robots to evoke fear responses in this invasive species," Porfiri said. "The results show that a robotic that closely replicates the swimming patterns and visual appearance of the largemouth bass has a powerful, lasting impact on mosquitofish in the lab setting."

A biomimetic robot that mimics the appearance and locomotion of the predator largemouth bass depleted the energy reserves of the invasive mosquitofish after only 15 minutes of exposure weekly. The research study led by the NYU Tandon School of Engineering raises the possibility of future applications in the wild. Credit: Maurizio Porfiri and Giovanni Polverino

The team exposed groups of mosquitofish to a robotic largemouth bass for one 15-minute session per week for six consecutive weeks. The robot's varied between trials, spanning several degrees of biomimicry. Notably, in some trials, the robot 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 and the level of stress response exhibited by the live fish. Fear-related behaviors in mosquitofish include freezing (not swimming), hesitancy in exploring open spaces that are unfamiliar and potentially dangerous, and erratic swimming patterns.

The researchers also measured physiologic parameters of stress response, anesthetizing the fish weekly to measure their weight and length. Decreases in weight indicate a stronger anti-predator response and result in lower energy reserves. Fish with lower reserves are less likely to survive long and devote energy toward future reproduction—factors with strong implications for population management in the wild.

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.

"Further studies are needed to determine if these effects translate to wild populations, but this is a concrete demonstration of the potential of a robotics to solve the problem," said Giovanni Polverino, Forrest Fellow in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Western Australia and the lead author of the paper. "We have a lot more work going on between our schools to establish new, effective tools to combat the spread of invasive species."

Porfiri's Dynamical Systems Laboratory is known for previous work using biomimetic robots alongside live fish to tease out the mechanisms of many collective , including leadership, mating preferences, and even the impact of alcohol on social behaviors. In addition to developing robots that offer fully controllable stimuli for studying animal behavior, the minimize use of experimental animals.


Explore further

Robotic fish helps protect native species from invasive pests

More information: Giovanni Polverino et al, Behavioural and life-history responses of mosquitofish to biologically inspired and interactive robotic predators, Journal of The Royal Society Interface (2019). DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2019.0359
Citation: Look out, invasive species: The robots are coming (2019, September 16) retrieved 21 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-09-invasive-species-robots.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
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Sep 16, 2019
So might the Terminator movies explain the declining birth rate?

Sep 16, 2019
This is just the start of what robots will do. Obviously the next step is to kill the target. Robots will pollinate plants and flowers 24 hours a day. Far more efficiently than bees.

Sep 16, 2019
but rod, will the honey be as sweet?
will the buzz be as soporific?

Sep 17, 2019
but rod, will the honey be as sweet?
will the buzz be as soporific?


I was writing about the future, not about what makes us sleepy.
As far as honey, it will probably be synthetic and better tasting and more nutritious in the future.


Sep 17, 2019
This is just the start of what robots will do. Obviously the next step is to kill the target. Robots will pollinate plants and flowers 24 hours a day. Far more efficiently than bees.

Welcome to Black mirrors' episode 6 from season 3. I think we don't want robotic bees.

Sep 17, 2019
This is just the start of what robots will do. Obviously the next step is to kill the target. Robots will pollinate plants and flowers 24 hours a day. Far more efficiently than bees.


Welcome to Black mirrors' episode 6 from season 3. I think we don't want robotic bees.


What about when all or most the bees are dead? As seems to be happening. Your nostalgia is very typical. As humans we all let our nostalgia get in the way of our common sense. But it doesn't matter, no one in history has ever stopped progress. Oh sure slowed progress down temporarily, but never stopped it.
How does the song say it? "Go And Beat Your Crazy Head Against The Sky".

Sep 18, 2019
What about when all or most the bees are dead? As seems to be happening. Your nostalgia is very typical. As humans we all let our nostalgia get in the way of our common sense. But it doesn't matter, no one in history has ever stopped progress. Oh sure slowed progress down temporarily, but never stopped it.
How does the song say it? "Go And Beat Your Crazy Head Against The Sky".

Wikipedia: "Nostalgia is a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations."

Tell me how I'm nostalgic if I say that robotic bees can be dangerous? It's like complete opposite of being nostalgic.

Sep 18, 2019
"Nostalgia is a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations."

if I say that robotic bees can be dangerous? It's like complete opposite of being nostalgic.


Now I am the one that is confused. I thought it was REAL bees that can be dangerous.
How can a drone the size of a honey bee or smaller, hurt someone unless it is designed to?
Also that definition of nostalgic no matter where it came from, has a major flaw when it uses the word typically.

Sep 18, 2019
You should watch Black mirrors S3E6 and you would know what I'm talking about. It was similar scenario: the bees of the world dying and a company that replaced them with robotic bees.

All sounds good until the bees get hacked and used as a unstoppable weapon to kill random people. How can you stop a swarm of thousands robotic bees wanting to hurt you?

Sep 18, 2019
the bees of the world dying and a company that replaced them with robotic bees.

All sounds good until the bees get hacked and used as a unstoppable weapon to kill random people. How can you stop a swarm of thousands robotic bees wanting to hurt you?


So how many people will die of starvation if ALL the bees die and there is no robotic replacement?
This is not a made up sci fi fantasy movie like you reference.
Man will go extinct if all bees die, without a replacement for pollination.
https://www.scien...ity.html

Sep 19, 2019
So how many people will die of starvation if ALL the bees die and there is no robotic replacement?
This is not a made up sci fi fantasy movie like you reference.
Man will go extinct if all bees die, without a replacement for pollination.
https://www.scien...ity.html

I know bees are important but I rather genetically manipulate the bees to withstand all the poisons we put in air and plants. Robotics should be the very last option and we are not that deep yet.

Or we can develop a form of agriculture that doesn't need bees to fertilize the plants.

Sep 19, 2019
I know bees are important but I rather genetically manipulate the bees to withstand all the poisons we put in air and plants. Robotics should be the very last option and we are not that deep yet.


You are exactly right about the genetic engineering! But understand genetic engineering can be hacked also. Scenario 2 has the bees killing everybody and eating them. :-) It would be easier to stop a swarm of robotic bees then a swarm of genetically enhanced bees. Anything can be done through genetic engineering including boosting the bees intelligence, size, ferocity etc.

Sep 19, 2019
You are exactly right about the genetic engineering! But understand genetic engineering can be hacked also. Scenario 2 has the bees killing everybody and eating them. :-) It would be easier to stop a swarm of robotic bees then a swarm of genetically enhanced bees. Anything can be done through genetic engineering including boosting the bees intelligence, size, ferocity etc.

Yes, GM bees can be hacked too but it's hard to do it afterwards and still you would not control the bees in same manner as robotic bees. If there's hundreds of billions of GM bees flying around and a terrorists want to hack them to kill people, how could they do it? Even if they manage to put out thousands of bees with the right genes, it would take ages to spread. It also could be that the gm bees would be easy to stop with a precisely engineered disease. How would you deal with robotic bees? EMP the whole world?

Robotic bees could be hacked any time and made to do exactly what you want.

Sep 19, 2019
EMP the whole world?


That's one way or perhaps we could just hack the bee's hack. Another way would be to design bee killing robots. Or robot killing biological bees.

This whole thing is silly and paranoid. If necessary create robots to pollinate the world's needs. And if we want, use genetic engineering to bring back the bees, when our technology reaches that point.

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