Collective responses of a large mackerel school depend on the size and speed of a robotic fish but not on tail motion

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So far, actuated fish models have been used to study animal interactions in small-scale controlled experiments. This study, conducted in a semi-controlled setting, investigates robot5interactions with a large wild-caught marine fish school (∼3000 individuals) in their natural social environment. Two towed fish robots were used to decouple size, tail motion and speed in a series of sea-cage experiments. Using high-resolution imaging sonar and sonar-video blind scoring, we monitored and classified the school's collective reaction towards the fish robots as attraction or avoidance. We found that two key releasers—the size and the speed of the robotic fish—were responsible for triggering either evasive reactions or following responses. At the same time, we found fish reactions to the tail motion to be insignificant. The fish evaded a fast-moving robot even if it was small. However, mackerels following propensity was greater towards a slow small robot. When moving slowly, the larger robot triggered significantly more avoidance responses than a small robot. Our results suggest that the collective responses of a large school exposed to a robotic fish could be manipulated by tuning two principal releasers—size and speed. These results can help to design experimental methods for in situ observations of wild fish schools or to develop underwater robots for guiding and interacting with free-ranging aggregated aquatic organisms.
Biorobotics, Collective behaviour, Animal-robot interaction, Atlantic mackerel, Underwater robot, Fish robot, Information-transfer, Killer whales, Aspect ratio, Behavior, Escape, Performance, Frequency, Atlantic, Shoals, Score
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Kruusmaa, M., Rieucau, G., Montoya, J. C. C., Markna, R. & Handegard, N. O. (2016). Collective responses of a large mackerel school depend on the size and speed of a robotic fish but not on tail motion. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 11(5), 056020.