Studying fragile soft-bodied deep-sea creatures without hurting them was a problem waiting to be solved. Now there’s a new Poké Ball-like robot with a rather menacing-looking five-fingered grabber that gently encloses the creatures in a box — so they can be studied in their own environment — before releasing them unharmed, ScienceNews.org reports (bit.ly/squishygrab). The device is pictured in a screen shot, courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
The robot, which has been successfully tested, is mounted on a remotely operated vehicle, and controlled via joystick by an operator on a nearby ship. Future plans include adding 3-D cameras, DNA-swabbing, and tagging instruments.
Considering that practically zilch is known about these soft deep-sea denizens, “almost anything we come up with,” marine biologist George Matsumoto said, “is going to be useful information.”