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Robots Help Answer Age-Old Question: Why do Fish School?

A fish-like robot leaves an observable wake.

Fish-like robots can provide insight into how fish save energy by swimming in schools.

Credit: Liang Li

Researchers at Germany's Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (MPI-AB) and the University of Konstanz, working with colleagues at China's Peking University, used biomimetic fish-like robots to demonstrate that fish save energy by swimming in schools without having to keep fixed distances from each other.

The robotic fish allowed the researchers to directly measure the power consumption of fish swimming together, versus on their own.

Said MPI-AB's Liang Li, "If we then have multiple robots interacting, we gain an efficient way to ask how different strategies of swimming together impact the costs of locomotion."

In more than 10,000 trials, the researchers found that fish in the front of the school influence the hydrodynamics of fish behind them, and to save energy, follower-fish match their tail beat to the leader's with a specific time lag based on spatial positioning, in a strategy called vortex phase matching.

From University of Konstanz (Germany)
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Abstracts Copyright © 2020 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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