Zebrafish prefer to hang out with their 3D robotic models, says research

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Zebrafish and Robot

Authenticity is an important trait, and zebrafish take it especially seriously.

In a new study led by NYU, researchers discover that zebrafish engage more with 3D-moving robotic models of themselves than with other stimuli.

The researchers designed a controllable, customizable robotic platform to accurately study freshwater fish behavior.

Like a puppet master, the robotic platform maneuvers biologically inspired 3D-printed replicas to mimic the swimming patterns of real fish.

Zebrafish are highly versatile and increasingly taking the place of more complex animals in behavioral studies.

Understanding their social behavior may help scientists explore mechanisms behind human disorders like anxiety, addiction, autism, and schizophrenia.

In the study, the researchers introduced the live zebrafish in the middle section of a 3-compartment experimental tank with the robotic fish and an empty section on either side.

They compared the response of the live zebrafish to the 3D-moving replica, a 2D-moving replica, a static replica, a transparent replica, and a non-moving rod.

Their findings showed that the fish, when presented with the choice between a static robot and one that was moving in 3D and beating its tail, preferred to spend time with the latter.

The researchers suggest that motion plays an important role in influencing zebrafish behavior. In addition, the study significantly refines the robotic platform that enables consistent, repeatable tests with our live subjects.

The research team includes NYU Tandon researchers Tommaso Ruberto and Daniele Neri, doctoral student Violet Mwaffo, and undergraduate student Sukhgewanpreet Singh.

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News source: NYU Tandon School of Engineering.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is credited to NYU Tandon.