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Scientists Use Mussel-Like Robots to Monitor Climate Change

Oct 18, 2016 04:30 AM EDT
Researchers use tiny, mussel-like robots to track changes in temerature caused by climate change.
(Photo : Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Scientists from Northeastern University have developed a tiny mussel-like robot that can be placed in mussel beds and track changes in temperature caused by climate change.

The miniature robot, described in a paper published in the journal Scientific Data, has the shape, size and color of an actual mussel. This robot, dubbed as "robomussel," can be easily placed on mussel beds in oceans around the world to track internal body temperature. The internal body temperature of robomussels is determined by the temperature of surrounding air or water and amount of solar radiation being absorbed by the device.

"They look exactly like mussels but they have little green blinking lights in them," explained Brian Helmuth, developer of robomussles, in a press release. "You basically pluck out a mussel and then glue the device to the rock right inside the mussel bed. They enable us to link our field observations with the physiological impact of global climate change on these ecologically and economically important animals."

Robomussels have been used by a global research team of 48 scientists for the past 18 years. The scientists have developed a database of their measurements for the past two decades. This database enabled the researchers to pinpoint areas of unusual warming, making it possible for them to intervene before vital marine ecosystems are damaged.

Due to the robomussels near-continuous measurements, every 10 to 15 minutes, the researchers were able to forecast the patterns of growth, reproduction and survival of mussels in intertidal zones. Furthermore, the researchers could also protect other species that depends on mussels as a primary source of their diet.

Additionally, the researchers could use the measurements from robomussels as an early warning system. This advance notice could help the researchers maintain the biodiversity of coastal systems and determine the best and worst places to locate mussel farms.

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