3D-printed ‘sex dolls’ help Carleton biologist study turtle mating habits

OTTAWA — Using 3D-printed “sex dolls” a Carleton University researcher has answered a question biologists had been asking for years — what do northern map turtles find attractive in a female.

Biologist Gregory Bulte says he’s been studying the mating habits of the northern map turtle for about 15 years, but the turtles are skittish and hard to observe because they mate on the bottom of lakes.

He says the females can grow to twice the length of males and he wondered whether males might be attracted to larger females.

Bulte says he and his colleagues printed two 3D printed “sex dolls” of female turtles, identical in every aspect except size, and placed them a metre apart on the lake bed, with cameras rigged up to record how wild males reacted.

As predicted, Bulte says the males attempted to mate with the large model more often than the smaller one.

He says that by selecting larger females, males would increase the fitness of their offspring because larger females produce larger hatchlings and he plans to continue his research using the models.

“For these turtles it would be very difficult to have somebody just sitting there taking notes underwater without scaring them away,” he said Wednesday.

Bulte said the models could also allow scientists to look at other traits involved in the turtles’ mating behaviour.

“We could look at colour … the markings, we could do that across seasons to see if it changes,” he said.

The northern map turtle is listed as a species at risk in Canada and is found in lakes and rivers in the corridor between Montreal and Windsor, Ont., Bulte said.

Bulte also said he’s going to need some help going through the data he has collected.

“Now I’m just hoping to find a really good student that is willing to watch a lot of turtle videos,” he said.

Just Posted

Councillors want to represent Red Deer at AUMA

City council approves endorsement

Cannabis smoke raises health concerns

Smoke Free Bylaw returns to Red Deer city council Sept. 4

Avid Penhold climber Catlin Hannah’s death a reminder of the dangers of scrambling

Hannah never returned from his Mount Smuts attempt on Aug. 12.

Children, elderly at risk as smoke from distant fires hangs over parts of B.C.

VANCOUVER — Thick smoke blanketing British Columbia communities far from any flames… Continue reading

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Police chiefs want new data-sharing treaty with U.S. as privacy questions linger

OTTAWA — Canada’s police chiefs are pressing the Trudeau government to sign… Continue reading

Pope on sex abuse: “We showed no care for the little ones”

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the… Continue reading

Ottawa announces $189M to extend employment insurance for seasonal workers

ESCUMINAC, N.B. — Ottawa has announced $189 million for an employment insurance… Continue reading

Trudeau formally announces he’ll run again in next year’s election

MONTREAL — Justin Trudeau will run again in the 2019 federal election.… Continue reading

Smoke from B.C. wildfires prompts air quality advisories across Western Canada

VANCOUVER — More smoky, hazy air is expected to blanket much of… Continue reading

Anti-pipeline protesters released days before weeklong jail sentences end

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — Several pipeline protesters were released from a British… Continue reading

All eyes on Andrew Scheer as Conservative convention set for Halifax

OTTAWA — After a week of internal caucus squabbles, Conservative Leader Andrew… Continue reading

Trump says his White House counsel not a ‘RAT’ like Nixon’s

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his White House… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month