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Robosquirrel presentations to rattlesnake

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Uploaded on Feb 2, 2012

In order to truly understand how a signal functions, researchers need to be able to conduct playback experiments that recreate elements of the display in a controlled fashion. With collaborators at UC Davis, we have created a mechanical model of a squirrel that recreates key elements of the squirrel display. Details of the squirrel model and our efforts to date are summarized in Joshi et al 2011 (see Clark Lab webpage). This video shows some of our preliminary tests of the robosquirrel. Biorobotics are becoming widely used in animal behavior research not only because they allow you to conduct controlled experiments that would be impossible with live animals, but also because they are generally economical. The parts for robosquirrel cost only a few hundred dollars, and it was designed and assembled by engineering students as part of their training toward an advanced degree.

This clip shows two of our preliminary field trials with robosquirrel. In the first clip, you can see the snake hiding in the tall grass in ambush position. The robosquirrel track is put in place, and the squirrel mount is slid down the track close to the snake and made to tail flag via remote control. The snake exhibits no overt reaction. In the second clip, the snake is again hiding in ambush position at a different location. The squirrel model again is slid into position down the track, but this time with no tail flagging. The snake launches a predatory strike at the squirrel, biting it in the head region. We collected several large deposits of expelled venom from the pelage of the squirrel model after this trial. Please see the project website at San Diego State University for more information: http://www.bio.sdsu.edu/pub/clark/Sit...

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