Scientist creates super-sized sex doll for turtles to test their mating habits

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A biologist studying turtle mating preferences used a 3D printer to create a set of female sex dolls to tempt members of the opposite.

The experiment targeted northern map turtles, which have been listed as an at risk species by the Canadian government.

The species is known for a major size difference between males and females.

A typical female can weigh up to 6.5 pounds, while males are significantly smaller, typically no more than 0.7 pounds.

Grégory Bulté a biology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, wondered how these major size difference affected the turtles mating practices.

‘If a typical male encounters many females of varying sizes, which happens because of the unusual overwintering habits of this species, and cannot possibly mate with all of them, he should prefer to mate with the larger ones,’ Bulté wrote in an article summarizing the experiment in The Conversation.

Bulté and his team used a 3D printer to create two artificial female ‘sex dolls’ to test the reaction from males in the mood for mating.

One doll was a little smaller than average, and the other was close to the largest size ever recorded for a female mapping turtle.

The team waited until the fall, when turtles tend to gather in large groups at the bottom of lakes or rivers where they’ll stay mostly inert during the winter months.

Turtles will typically mate once at the start of this ‘overwintering’ period and once again at the end of the winter just before they wander back out on their own.

The team placed the two sex doll turtles near one of these regions, attaching them to a common brace with an underwater camera attached to monitor all the activity they attracted.

For nine days they placed the dolls into the water in the morning and then retrieved them again in the evening and logged the day’s footage.

At the end of the nine days, the results were clear, male turtles preferred the larger female sex doll, which they ‘visited’ almost twice as many times as the smaller doll.

The larger sex doll also was subject to five times as many mating attempts as the smaller doll.

Interestingly, the cameras also recorded a number of unexpected activity that could point to future study.

‘As we were sifting through videos from our experiments, we witnessed a number of phenomena we did not know were possible, including a female map turtle seemingly squeaking at a female decoy and a loon attacking a male decoy,’ he wrote.

‘These may just be anecdotes for now, but perhaps there is more to them. 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.’

 

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