Journal article

Investigation of Collective Behaviour and Electrocommunication in the Weakly Electric Fish, Mormyrus rume, through a biomimetic Robotic Dummy Fish

A robotic fish has been developed to create a mixed bio-hybrid system made up of weakly electric fish and a mobile dummy fish. Weakly electric fish are capable of interacting with each other via sequences of self-generated electric signals during electrocommunication. Here we present the design of an artificial dummy fish, which is subsequently tested in behavioural experiments. The robot consists of two parts: a flexible tail that can move at different frequencies and amplitudes, performing a carangiform oscillation, and a rigid head containing the motor for the tail oscillation. The dummy fish mimics the weakly electric fish Mormyrus rume in morphology, size and electric signal generation. In order to study electrical interactions, the dummy fish is equipped with ten electrodes that record electric signals of nearby real fish and generate electric dipole fields around itself that are similar to those produced by real fish in both waveform and sequence. Behavioural experiments demonstrate that the dummy fish is able to recruit both single individuals and groups of M. rume from a shelter into an exposed area. The development of an artificial dummy fish may help to understand fundamental aspects of collective behaviour in weakly electric fish and the properties necessary to initiate and sustain it in closed-loop feedback experiments based on electrocommunication.


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