Infiltrating the zebrafish swarm: design, implementation and experimental tests of a miniature robotic fish lure for fish–robot interaction studies
Robotic fish are nowadays developed for various types of research, such as bio-inspiredrobotics, biomimetics and animal behavior studies. In the context of our research on the social interactions of the zebrafish Danio Rerio, we developed a miniature robotic fish lure for direct underwater interaction with the living fish. This remotely controlled and waterproof device has a total length of 7.5 cm with the same size ratio as zebrafish and is able to beat its tail with different frequencies and amplitudes, while following the group of living animals using a mobile robot moving outside water that is coupled with the robotic lure using magnets. The robotic lure is also equipped with a rechargeable battery and can be used autonomously underwater for experiments of up to 1 h. We performed experiments with the robot moving inside an aquarium with living fish to analyze its impact on the zebrafish behavior. We found that the beating rate of the tail increased the attractiveness of the lure among the zebrafish shoal. We also demonstrated that the lure could influence a collective decision of the zebrafish shoal, the swimming direction, when moving with a constant linear speed inside a circular corridor. This new robotic fish design and the experimental results are promising for the field of fish–robot interaction.