Scientists Make Robotic Grabber Catches Squidgy Deep Sea Animals without Harming Them

Monday, July 23, 2018 - 16:08

Scientists at Harvard University in Massachusetts have created a robotic grabber based on a regular dodecahedron, a 3D shape built from 12 pentagons.

The deep sea is a challenging place to study wildlife and many deep sea animals, such as jellyfish and their relatives, have fragile bodies. This means catching them using suction or claw-like grabbers, can cause them to break apart, leaving broken pieces to study instead of whole organisms, New Scientist reports.

The grabber is used by attaching it to a remote controlled underwater vehicle or another type of submersible. It starts as a flat base that then gently folds around the animal.

Zhi Ern Teoh at Harvard University in Massachusetts and colleagues tested the device in an aquarium and deep in Monterey Canyon, an underwater canyon off the coast of central California, where they successfully caught a jellyfish, a squid, and an octopus.

Currently, the grabber can only hold the animal in place, but the team plan to add additional hardware, such as 3D scanners and DNA swabs, to examine creatures whilst inside.

Being able to measure animals in the water rather than bringing them to the surface could allow researchers to follow interesting results more easily, says Casey Dunn at Yale University in Connecticut. However, there are some cases, such as examining animals internally, where they will still have to be brought to the surface, he says.

Journal reference: Science Robotics, DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aat5276

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