Experiments with Robotic Crabs

ArtistHoul
ScientistDaniela Perez
Scientist PositionPhD Candidate, Research School of Biology, ANU

Experiments with Robotic Crabs

As in many animals’ species, females choose their perfect male based on his qualities. Fiddler crab males are colorful and have one big and one small claw in contrast with the dull looking females with their two small claws. The males’ quality is signaled through dancing movements used in courtship. Fiddler crab dancing is called waving and involves a combination of movements of the big claw raised in the air. However, little is known about the elements females are really interested in this display.
To find out all about female preference for different dance moves I use robots and test the girls’ response to them. In order to do that, different types of waves performed by the robots are presented. The robots fool females so well that they make choices revealing the preferences on dancing elements. Height and frequency of waves seem to be the elementary aspects that tell girls all about who the ideal partner is. Studies with robots like these are common in research. Other examples are studies with lizards and fish.
It is a real challenge to communicate scientific projects to the general public. Yet art is an effective approach that triggers imagination, grabs attention, instigates curiosity and, if well depicted, also communicates ideas.
It is important to find alternative ways to expose science to the public and break the conceptual barriers that science is only understood by scientists.