A clever robot spies on animals in the ‘twilight zone’ of the ocean

Using stereo cameras and detection algorithms, Mesobot parses the movements of its subjects and follows them. The yogi and his colleagues demonstrated the robot’s skill at a depth of 650 feet in Monterey Bay, as it detected and then followed a prey jellyfish. More impressively, for half an hour it secretly follows a fragile creature called a larva, which looks like a tadpole and creates a giant mucus “house” to filter its food. (The robot eventually disrupted the highly sensitive exterior structure of the house, but the interior structure of the house and the animal itself were intact.) Based on their experiments, the team thought it might be able to work for 24 hours and reach a depth of 3,200 feet.

Larvasian like tadpoles

Video: Evan Kovacs / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

For now, the mesobot cannot collect animals, but in the future it may employ a suction system to stop them. Observing sea creatures with just a camera will not tell you what they are eating, and for example, where they fit on the food web. You need to get rid of it. If you want to study their physiology, you also need a physical sample. “The idea is that you follow an animal for a while and then you grab it. I think it’s very efficient,” says Yoga.

Mesobots may look like large airpods but they are actually quite compact compared to other crew submarines and sea robots. Probably the most famous AlvinWhich also manages the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. It weighs 45,000 pounds and can only launch from a specific ship. The smaller size of the mesobot means it is cheaper to build and more easily deployable, which will probably open the platform for more researchers. “It’s another big win,” says Singh of Northeastern University.

Scientists have long known that species undergo a vertical migration every day, but they still catch it at different depths or use gold to determine where they are gathering at a particular time. Can monitor its movements in its finer details. “Reefs studied in the twilight region but were not involved in this new work,” said Luiz Rocha, curator of the Fish at the California Academy of Sciences. “We have very little observation about the fish.” Reproduce and leave. “

Mesobot tracks a jellyfish

Video: Evan Kovacs / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

And scientists don’t have a great idea of ​​how different species that travel through medium water interact! For example, which predator follows their prey above and below the water prey? Are the animals being transferred to tight school, or in a more diffused fashion? Or, how can sea temperature rise move a given species and instead affect another in its food chain? Oceanographers may try to track them down with their sinks, but something less so than a mesobot will probably scare the whole thing. “But if you have a robot that can be submerged 24 hours a day and follow a fish or a group all the time, you might want to think about studying these phenomena,” Rocha said.

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