World - Sea Rays Could Help Map Ocean Floor
Researchers in Japan have completed a feasibility study indicating that electric rays and stingrays, equipped with pingers, will be able to map the seabed through natural exploration.
The ocean is a big place full of natural resources including fossil fuels, minerals and fish. But many of these resources are on the ocean floor in places experts are yet to find. Ocean exploration is therefore necessary, and currently, automated vehicles, sonar and satellites are all used with varying advantages and disadvantages. However, scientists at the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research (BDR), led by Yo Tanaka, are developing a different system that relies on the natural swimming behaviour of electric rays and stingrays.
“Electric rays and stingrays are benthic animals, meaning that they spend most of their time swimming around the ocean floor in deep places,” Tanaka explained. “By combining simple pinger technology and digital cameras with this natural behaviour, we think we can use rays to map the ocean floor, and at the same time collect meaningful data about ocean wildlife, biota and resources.” Additionally, this method could be much more cost-effective as Tanaka and his team have already shown that electric rays can use their own electricity to power the small pingers.
A pinger is a device that emits an ultrasonic sound, and when this sound is picked up by several receivers, the position of the receivers and the time at which the sound is detected can be used to calculate the position of the pinger. By placing cameras on rays and linking the timing of the recorded video to the timing and locations determined by the pingers, the researchers believe they can create accurate maps of the ocean floor.