Humans are creating a dangerous world. Between the development of man-made disasters such as massive oil spills and the use of hazardous equipment like underwater turbines, animals - especially fish - are constantly encountering novel, perilous situations.
Many times they do not live to tell the tale. A new invention aims to curb this sad trend.
Researchers created a robotic fish that can lead schools of real fish out of danger. This technology could potentially be used for other species that move in herds or schools, whether underwater or on land. But first, scientists need to determine what makes one individual amongst a group the "leader."
Maurizio Porfiri, a researcher at Polytechnic Institute of New York University, played the role of Dr. Frankenstein in this study. To create a realistic and convincing robot fish, Porfiri studied leader fish dynamics in schools of bait fish.
He and colleagues found that leader fish distinguish themselves by beating their tales faster and swimming around excitedly to gain attention. Fish in the group are always on the lookout for visual cues and sensory information that guides their decision to on whether or not to school up.