Scientists at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida have lost a 6-foot-long submersible robot somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico and are offering $500 to anyone who can track it down.

Experts fear that the research robot may have sprung a leak, gotten snagged by a fishing net or become sentient in a bid to destroy the human race.

Waldo, as the $100,000 winged submarine is nicknamed, was launched August 25 on a mission to research phytoplankton, the algae that produce harmful red tide. The robot usually surfaces every two hours to report its location to satellites, but the drone hasn't been heard from since last Monday, when it was roving along the coast of Venice, Fla.

"There's a possibility it could be found by boaters or beachgoers," said Dr. Gary Kirkpatrick, a marine biologist at Mote Laboratory. "But we'd really like to get it back because its loss would be quite a dent in our efforts to stay on top of red tide."

If the $500 reward doesn't lead to the capture of the robot, scientists will have to resort to Plan B: cyborg manatees.

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