Scientists studying wildlife animal behaviors are starting to use 3D printing to produce more accurate animal replicas, leading to some interesting discoveries. Daniel Mennill and Stéphanie Doucet, both of whom are behavioral ecologists at the University of Windsor in Canada, used a 3D printed toad (RobotToad) made by their graduate student Lincoln Savi, to study Costarican toads and how their brief color change to bright yellow influences mating behaviors.
Biologist Grégory Bulté, of Carleton University in Ottawa, used the technology to 3D print two models of female turtles, identical in every aspect except size, and placed them a meter apart on a lakebed, with cameras rigged up to record how wild males reacted. The study led to observe that the males attempted to mate with the large model more often than the smaller one.
Ornithologist Mark Hauber at the University of Illinois in Urbana, 3D printed bird eggs to study a behavior known as brood parasitism, in which birds lay eggs in the nests of other species, leaving the unwitting foster parents to rear their chicks. Using 3D printing, Hauber’s team created far more realistic looking cowbird eggs, which allowed his team to examine whether variations of just a few millimeters in size influenced robins’ decisions to throw the parasitic eggs out of their nests.