The brain-like “tactics” that shark hunters use to defend themselves against attacks on the sea surface is the brain of the shark and it appears to have evolved in response to a particular threat, according to a study published today in the journal PLOS ONE.
The brain-controlled robot, dubbed Shark Ion, was developed by the Australian National University’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) in collaboration with a team of international scientists, including researchers from China.
The team’s aim was to understand how and why sharks use tactics to protect themselves and the ocean ecosystem from other animals, including humans.
“In the absence of any other predator, they were able to perform some defensive mechanisms and survive by exploiting the ocean’s natural defences,” Dr John MacLeod, one of the lead authors of the study, told Polygon.
“So this is a unique behaviour for a shark to perform, because of the fact that it’s very difficult to detect.”
Dr MacLeod said the shark was using a particular set of “battles” to help it fend off other predators.
“These attacks were triggered by certain events in the ocean, such as strong currents or tides or the presence of a large number of prey,” Dr MacLeod explained.
“The behaviours of the animals were also influenced by their surroundings.”
Dr Chris McLeod and his team first discovered the shark using the same technique they used in defence of other marine mammals in the wild.
“We thought it would be interesting to look at how these behaviours evolved in the absence (of) any predators,” he said.
“This is one of those things that, as we started studying it, I was able to really get to grips with what it is about the shark that makes it so effective.”
Dr McLeod said they discovered the ability of the robot to use its body to protect itself was a new and exciting avenue for scientists to explore.
“If we’re not using it to protect the people around us, it’s probably very important to us, because it’s protecting us from predators,” Dr McLeod told Polygons story.
“It’s protecting itself from all kinds of attacks, from shark to man.”
The team spent five years trying to figure out how the robot used its body and brain to defend itself from other sharks.
Dr MacLeary said while there was plenty of information to draw from the shark’s behavior to help them figure out the robot’s function, it was not clear how the shark used its own unique brain to perform the tactics it used.
“What we do know is that the shark is able to use the same techniques in response, in a similar way, to the behaviour of other animals,” he explained.
Dr McLeary said they would like to continue to investigate the shark robot’s unique abilities, as it was a fascinating new insight into the animal’s unique capabilities.
Dr John MacLeary and his collaborators have been using the robot for research for more than five years.
Topics:biological-informatics,research,science-and-technology,human-interest,aquaculture,australia,canberra-2600,sydney-2000,qld,aotearoa-4870Contact Josh Ransom