3D printed sperm in the lecture room

Snails are famous for shooting love darts, which are often likened to the darts of Cupid. However, this courtship ritual is actually quite violent because it involves the stabbing of a sharp calcareous structure through the body wall of the mating partner. To illustrate how such strange mating tactics can evolve, Dr. Joris M. Koene has recently developed an interactive lecture component during which a group of participants is divided into Egg Layers and Sperm Donors that get to make fertilization decisions. The game is fun to play according to the students and high school teachers that he has done this game with so far. Another fun fact is that the game makes use of 3D printed sperm designed in collaboration with our library’s 3D printers. The outcomes of the game, which can be converted to analyzable data on the spot, beautifully illustrate how the basics of sexual selection work. As Joris Koene explains, “By experiencing the decision making first-hand, the evolutionary principle that lies at the basis of many mating decisions in animals sticks much better with the participants”. All in all, this is a nice example of how fundamental research and modern education can facilitate each other in the lecture room