Mosquitoes are not interested in creating fish offspring as they require more energy to avoid robotic predatory fish.
In the 1920s, a small, innocent-looking fish was chipped all over the world. Mosquitoes feed on the eggs of malaria mosquitoes, thus reducing the spread of serious disease. Unfortunately, without natural enemies, fish became an almost uncontrollable pest in many places.
After decades of frantic efforts to tackle invasive fish, Australian researchers are coming up with a new idea. The team developed the robot trout bass, a natural predator of mosquitoes. The robot mosquito scares the fish so much that it breeds less.
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Mosquito fish (Cambodia affinis) Occurs naturally in North America. The population is controlled, among other things, by the presence of trout, which happily eats freshwater fish. Where the species was found to be misplaced after 1920, the perch did not exist. It plays freely for fish.
This is a big problem in Australia, among other things. In addition to mosquito eggs, exotic birds also eat many native, protected fish and frog species (eggs). Mosquitoes, for example, disrupt those aquatic ecosystems. No wonder Australians want to get rid of small scary fish.
The team behind the new study turned to the natural hunting side of the mosquito fish. But since the introduction of another exotic fish (read: something that does not happen naturally in Australia) makes things worse, they do not use real trout bass, but a robot.
The researchers tested their robotic fish twelve times a week in a tank containing six mosquitoes and six tadpoles. With a camera, the robot-perch distinguishes its ‘prey’ and dotpoles.
The robot fish has been meticulously monitoring the mosquitoes. As they try to catch a dotball, the robot-perch shoots forward. Although the robot has not eaten the fish, the terrifying fish is still in shock.
That stress seems to have an effect. According to the researchers, the fish exerts more energy to avoid the robot with fear. They cannot use that energy for reproduction. The researchers found that men’s sperm count decreased and women produced lighter eggs. The fish also lost weight: they were lighter and they could escape from predation – no matter how fake it was.
Field: Giovanni Polverino
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