Electric rays from stingrays will help map the seabed

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Biosystem Dynamics Research (BDR) in Japan plan to map the seabed using electric rays from stingrays.

Electric rays are benthic animals, which means that they spend most of their time swimming on the ocean floor. If we combine the simple technology of pingers and digital cameras with their natural behavior, then we can use the electric rays emitted by the rays to map the ocean floor and collect data on wildlife, biota, and ocean resources.

Yo Tanaka, Scientist at RIKEN BDR University in Japan

Besides, this method can be much more economical as the electric rays can use their own—energy to feed pingers.

A pinger is a device that emits ultrasound. When several receivers pick up the pinger’s sound, they change their position: due to this, you can understand where the pinger is now. By placing the cameras on the beams and then analyzing their recording and the video and the pinger’s location, you can create accurate maps of the ocean floor.

In their research to validate this idea, the team conducted two experiments that showed the technology they developed was viable. After the first positive result, the team decided to test their system at sea: off Okinawa, Japan.

The researchers attached pingers to electric beams and lowered them into the ocean along with four ultrasonic receivers. The ocean’s depth was about 20 m, and the rays swam at a distance of about 40 m from the boat. The researchers recorded the coordinates obtained from the pinger. They then compared the data with a pre-existing seafloor map and confirmed that the rays’ position gave an error of about 10 cm from the pre-existing map.

Now scientists want to launch a long-term monitoring system.

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