Scientists Studied Turtles' Mating Behavior Through Sex Dolls
Wed, April 14, 2021

Scientists Studied Turtles' Mating Behavior Through Sex Dolls


Scientists have been trying to understand animal behavior and reproductivity for a long time now. They conduct studies to know how they can help these animals, especially if their species are endangered or on the brink of extinction. Canada’s northern map turtles (Graptemys geographica), in particular, are classified as a “special concern” in Ontario. However, just like other species, these turtles are difficult to monitor. The good thing is that modern technology is allowing scientists to effectively monitor them.


Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons


According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, Canada’s northern map turtles are notoriously difficult to monitor because they immediately dive into the water as soon as they feel even slightly threatened. At the same time, they also mate underwater, which makes monitoring their habits challenging. Thus, the researchers of a 2018 study published in the Animal Behavior journal decided to use 3D-printed turtle “sex dolls” to study the animal’s mating preferences. 


Photo Credits: S. Dobson/Grégory Bulté via All That's Interesting


The study aimed to know the turtles’ mating preferences. The researchers specifically wanted to determine whether or not the males had a size preference at all. They had to fool the species into approaching their turtle sex dolls to monitor which shapes and sizes were most popular. “I would often see males courting females or following them around. “I would often see males courting females or following them around,” Ecology and Evolutionary Biology instructor Grégory Bulté said. 


Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons


The findings revealed that northern map turtle males prefer to mate with larger females rather than smaller ones -- a prime example of sexual dimorphism. The researchers used the scan of a dry turtle specimen to 3D-print several decoys and fitted them with Go-Pro cameras. “The ubiquity and affordability of action cameras will surely yield many insightful observations about aquatic animals including turtles. Some may influence how we think about animal behavior, others may just be intriguing tidbits of a world largely unexplored,” Bulté said. 




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