In this screengrab from a YouTube video, a turtle approaches the larger of two model turtles on the right. (Gregory Bulte via The Canadian Press)

‘Sex dolls’ help biologist study turtle mating habits

3D-printed ‘sex dolls’ help Carleton biologist find out what turtles find attractive in a female

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.

RELATED: Sex robots could help your marriage

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.

RELATED: The coming disruption: How robots might upend different professions

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.

The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RDCK reduces number of properties under evacuation alert from Talbott Creek Fire to 46

Improved visibility has allowed helicopters to resume water suppression efforts on fire

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

Kootenay teachers’ union going to labour relations board over COVID-19 related work conditions

Union issues open letter to premier, education minister, health minister and Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Trail market goes garlic

The event goes Saturday in downtown Trail from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

B.C.’s Chase Claypool catches first NFL touchdown pass

Abbotsford grad establishes new record for longest scrimmage TD by a Canadian

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving Mission RCMP cell, police say; family has doubts

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Most Read