A robotic fish that acts like a bodyguard for native species, protecting them against aggression from invasive pests, has been developed by researchers at The University of Western Australia.
Lead researcher Giovanni Polverino, from UWA's Centre for Evolutionary Biology, said robotic fish may be the "silver bullet" for mosquitofish, which are one of the biggest threats in freshwater ecosystems worldwide.
They were introduced by humans in many environments to control mosquito larvae and current attempts to stop or slow down their invasion are largely failing.
"Tadpoles of most frog species are paying the costs of this forced cohabitation," Dr Polverino said.
The research team studied the appearance and swimming patterns of native predators of the mosquitofish from North America and integrated the features into a robotic version that looks and moves like a real one.
They also developed a computer vision system to allow the robot to differentiate, in real time, the mosquitofish from the native tadpoles then attack when they pose a threat.
Dr Polverino said previous research collaborations with New York University's Tandon School of Engineering found repelled, stressed mosquitofish lost most of their energy reserves, compromising their survival and fertility in the long term.
Australian Associated Press