Fish and robots swimming together: Attraction towards the robot demands biomimetic locomotion

Stefano Marras, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The integration of biomimetic robots in a fish school may enable a better understanding of collective behaviour, offering a new experimental method to test group feedback in response to behavioural modulations of its 'engineered' member. Here, we analyse a robotic fish and individual golden shiners (Notemigonus crysoleucas) swimming together in a water tunnel at different flow velocities. We determine the positional preference of fish with respect to the robot, and we study the flow structure using a digital particle image velocimetry system. We find that biomimetic locomotion is a determinant of fish preference as fish aremore attracted towards the robot when its tail is beating rather than when it is statically immersed in the water as a 'dummy'. At specific conditions, the fish hold station behind the robot, which may be due to the hydrodynamic advantage obtained by swimming in the robot's wake. This workmakes a compelling case for the need of biomimetic locomotion in promoting robot-animal interactions and it strengthens the hypothesis that biomimetic robots can be used to study and modulate collective animal behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1856-1868
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number73
StatePublished - Aug 7 2012


  • Biomimetics
  • Collective behaviour
  • Fish swimming
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Leadership
  • Robotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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