The Lionfish Terminator: Researchers Built a Robot to Kill Invasive Species

The Lionfish: AKA Darwin's nightmare.

8. 27. 16 by Ramon Perez
Ed Williams, Robo Nautica
Image by Ed Williams, Robo Nautica

Biodiversity in the Carribean Waters, right now, is hanging on a thread. For years, its aquatic life has been threatened by pollution, overfishing, and other malpractices. Now, an even greater and uncontrollable threat has risen. It’s goal: having the “all you can eat seafood buffet” of its lifetime.

Meet the Lionfish. 

NOOA

Eat or Be Eaten

Don’t let this fish’s elegant exterior fool you. Lionfish are non-selective eaters in a sea where they have virtually no natural predators. According to Sailors for the Sea, this fish has been observed consuming 20 small fish in a 30-minute period and prey up to two-thirds their own length.

Moreover, samples of their stomach contents have shown that they consume more than 50 different species, many of which are overfished and diminished to already critical levels—endangering the fragile ecosystem with their ferocious and wasteful appetites.

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According to researchers from NOOA, this fish cannot be eliminated using conventional methods. So what do we do? Researchers at Robots In Service of the Environment (RISE) say we zap them using the Lionfish Terminator.

Robotic Zapper

Shocked after witnessing the dire situation at hand during his visit to Bermuda, RISE founder and iRobot CEO Colin Angle, came up with the idea of building a robotic lionfish exterminator.

Equipped with a pair of telescoping electrodes, this robot would sneak up on the Lionfish and zap it until it’s no longer mobile.

3D rendering of the lionfish exterminator. PBS

Zapping Lionfish may sound like a controversial and extreme solution. But these predators are killing coral reef, and starving other species. Scientists argue that culling the Lionfish population is essential to protecting the local ecosystem.

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Still in its early stages, RISE says that they have to conduct more tests on the shocking mechanism before deploying the robot into the seas to make sure everything’s good to go in restoring the native balance of the ecosystem.


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