Zebrafish response to a robotic replica in three dimensions

Tommaso Ruberto, Violet Mwaffo, Sukhgewanpreet Singh, Daniele Neri, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As zebrafish emerge as a species of choice for the investigation of biological processes, a number of experimental protocols are being developed to study their social behaviour. While live stimuli may elicit varying response in focal subjects owing to idiosyncrasies, tiredness and circadian rhythms, video stimuli suffer from the absence of physical input and rely only on twodimensional projections. Robotics has been recently proposed as an alternative approach to generate physical, customizable, effective and consistent stimuli for behavioural phenotyping. Here, we contribute to this field of investigation through a novel four-degree-of-freedom robotics-based platform to manoeuvre a biologically inspired three-dimensionally printed replica. The platform enables three-dimensional motions as well as body oscillations to mimic zebrafish locomotion. In a series of experiments, we demonstrate the differential role of the visual stimuli associated with the biologically inspired replica and its three-dimensional motion. Three-dimensional tracking and information-theoretic tools are complemented to quantify the interaction between zebrafish and the robotic stimulus. Live subjects displayed a robust attraction towards the moving replica, and such attraction was lost when controlling for its visual appearance or motion. This effort is expected to aid zebrafish behavioural phenotyping, by offering a novel approach to generate physical stimuli moving in three dimensions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA35
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 19 2016


  • Binary choice test
  • Information theory
  • Robotics
  • Three-dimensional tracking
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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