Vol. 12 No. 1 (2017)
Short Note

Good vibrations: a novel method for sexing turtles

Donald McKnight
College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University
Hunter Howell
Department of Biological Sciences, Towson University
Ethan Hollender
Department of Biology, Missouri State University
Day Ligon
Department of Biology, Missouri State University
Published April 27, 2017
How to Cite
McKnight, D., Howell, H., Hollender, E., & Ligon, D. (2017). Good vibrations: a novel method for sexing turtles. Acta Herpetologica, 12(1), 117-121. https://doi.org/10.13128/Acta_Herpetol-19982


The ability to accurately determine the sex of individuals is important for research and conservation efforts. While most species of turtle exhibit secondary sexual dimorphisms that can be used to reliably infer sex, there are some species that are very difficult to sex, and even within many dimorphic species, it is not uncommon to encounter individuals that appear to exhibit both male and female secondary sex characteristics. Therefore, we tested the novel method of using a vibrator to sex turtles by stimulating male turtles to evert their penises. We tested this method on males of four species (three families) with known sexual dimorphisms: spiny softshell turtles (Apalone spinifera; n = 14), western chicken turtles (Deirochelys reticularia miaria; n = 17), Mississippi mud turtles (Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis; n = 10), and common musk turtles (Sternotherus odoratus; n = 9). The method accurately sexed 100% of A. spinifera, 64.7% of D. r. miaria, 80.0% of K. s. hippocrepis, and 55.6% of S. odoratus. Despite the low success rates in some species, there are situations in which this method will be useful for researchers working with species that are difficult to sex using external morphological characteristics.


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