A terrifying robot fish drives aggressive mosquitoes away


04:00 am

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

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Aggressive mosquito fish are often not afraid. These fish spread in a way that disturbs simple ecosystems from Europe to Australia.

In an effort to keep these troublesome fish in check, scientists are trying to put fear back into their hearts with a high-tech mechanism: robot fish.

In a lab experiment, a robotic fish designed to mimic a mosquito’s natural predator increased fear and stress responses in mosquito fish, impeding their ability to survive and reproduce, the researchers said in the study, published on Science News.

The mosquito fish, which is native to parts of the western and southeastern United States, was released into fresh waters around the world last century in a reckless attempt to control malaria.

But instead of eating the larvae of the mosquitoes that transmit malaria, the mosquito fish eats the eggs and tails of local fish and amphibians, making it one of the most aggressive and destructive species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Giovanni Pulverino, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Western Australia in Perth, says efforts to control mosquito fish and other aggressive introduced species often rely on trapping, poisoning or other acute methods.

In the lab, the researchers set up 12 tanks, each containing six mosquito fish as well as six tadpoles that are commonly harassed by mosquitoes.

Fear of robot fish altered the behavior, appearance, and fertility of mosquito fish, both during exposure and weeks later. Mosquito fish facing the robot fish tended to huddle together and not be disturbed by the robot fish while the tadpoles swam away, undisturbed.

Mosquito fish that had been exposed to robot fish, even when they were safe in their aquariums, became less active and more anxious.

Although robot fish won’t be resorted to any time soon, the research highlights that there are “more innovative ways to prevent unwanted behavior of the species” than simply killing it, according to Michael Kolshaw-Maurer, a marine scientist from the University of Arizona. In Tucson did not participate in the study.


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