Two fish swimming in tank


Beam me up… Nemo!?!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Would Dory and Nemo really be friends? What if they’re swimming in different oceans? Studying social interactions among animals is hard, but doing it long-distance seems impossible!

Maurizio Porfiri and colleagues at New York University have a solution! They studied social interactions between zebrafish pairs swimming in tanks.

Here’s the hook, so to speak — in some tanks, one fish was a ROBOT! Robo-fish were programmed to mimic the swimming of LIVE fish in a separate tank. The researchers call this “behavioral teleporting.”

Results? Robo-fish matched the movements of live zebrafish with ninety-five percent accuracy, in REAL TIME! Robo-fish acted like surrogates, transporting the behavior of the live fish from different tanks. Zebrafish pairs interacted like two REAL fish swimming in the same tank!

This novel method could make long-distance behavioral studies in animals easier and cheaper.

Maybe they can make a robotic Sandra to transport to the DMV? Pretty please!

Reference: Karakaya, M., Macrì, S., & Porfiri, M. (2020). Behavioral Teleporting of Individual Ethograms onto Inanimate Robots: Experiments on Social Interactions in Live Zebrafish. IScience, 23(8), 101418.