Robotic fish helps protect native species from invasive pests

University of Western Australia –

Researchers at The University of Western Australia have developed a robotic fish that behaves like a bodyguard for native species and safeguards them against the aggressive attitudes of invasive pests.

Lead researcher Dr Giovanni Polverino, from UWA’s Centre for Evolutionary Biology, was awarded one of the inaugural Forrest Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in 2017.

Dr Polverino’s research is focused on evolutionary mechanisms behind the ecological success of invasive fish over native ones to predict different species’ response to human-induced changes in the environment.

His research team has developed a new generation of bio-inspired robots capable of combatting invasive and pest species in Australian fresh waterways while also protecting the local fauna.

“Originally introduced by humans in many environments to control mosquito larvae, mosquitofish are now one of the biggest threats in freshwater ecosystems worldwide, including Australia,” Dr Polverino said.

“Current solutions to stop, or at least slow down, the invasion of mosquitofish are largely failing and tadpoles of most frog species are paying the costs of this forced cohabitation. Is robotic fish the silver bullet against mosquitofish?

“We’ve studied the appearance and swimming patterns of native predators of the invasive mosquitofish from North America and integrated these features into a robotic predator fish that looks and moves like a real mosquitofish predator.

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