Scientists are always looking for new and faster ways of researching our oceans. To this end, they have come up with an ingenious new method – attaching bionic prosthetics to jellyfish.
Scientists from Stanford University and Caltech (California Institute of Technology) have discovered that by using a prosthetic a jellyfish can travel three times more quickly. This doesn’t harm the jellyfish and used a lot less energy than other methods.
Soon these jellyfish will be fitted with sensors to capture and record data giving new insights into life on Earth’s oceans.
Jellyfish are one of the most abundant ocean-dwelling creatures, making them an ideal way of exploring new uncharted areas. If scientists can help direct the creatures to specific locations they can use sensors to track oxygen levels, temperature, salinity, and other useful information.
The jellyfish will continue to feed on their usual prey while sending back useful data to the scientific team.
By measuring the amount of oxygen used by the jellyfish whilst swimming, scientists discovered that the tiny prosthetics would increase the speed of the jellyfish from 2cm/second to around 4-6cm/second.
The electrical jolts increased their speed to that far above anything achieved with swimming robots.
Jellyfish are one of the simplest creatures in the ocean, they do not have a brain, heart, blood or any large organs and are, in fact, around 95% water.
Although jellyfish do not experience pain in the same way as human beings, they will show signs of stress and these were monitored throughout when the prosthetics were used. The researchers noted that no signs of stress were exhibited by any of the jellyfish in the study.
Once the prosthetic was removed the jellyfish went back to swimming at their normal speed.
It is hoped that the prosthetics could be designed to signal the jellyfish to move in certain directions and speeds making the creatures a key resource in ocean mapping to increase our knowledge of our world’s oceans.