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Table 1 Ecological studies that have used 3D printing

From: Benefits and limitations of three-dimensional printing technology for ecological research

Research topic Taxa Objects printed Print medium Sample size References
Behavioral ecology
 Egg rejection behavior in context of brood parasitism Brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) Cowbird eggs that varied in size/shape, then painted different colors “White strong and flexible plastic, polished” 80 [27]
 Effect of corolla shape on pollinator behavior Hawkmoth (Manduca sexta) Flowers that varied in corolla shape based on specific mathematical parameters Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic NR [30]
 Effects of visual and olfactory floral traits in attracting pollinators Mushroom-mimicking orchid (Dracula lafleurii) Molds to make silicon flowers Cyanoacrylate impregnated gympsum NR [31]
 Effect of nectar caffeine concentrations on pollination service Bumble Bees (Bombus impatiens) Structures that functioned like corollas over glass jars containing artificial nectar Plastic (type non-specified) Min. 18 [29]
 Social behavior of zebrafish in response to varying stimuli Zebrafish (Danio rerio) Predatory fish model robot shoals comprising 3 zebrafish that varied in body size plus anchoring materials biologically-inspired zebrafish replica ABS plastic
ABS plastic
ABS plastic
4 shoals
[28] [45]
 Influence of female body size on mate choice by males Northern map turtles (Graptemys geographica) Replicas of female turtles that differed in body size ABS plastic 4 [32]
 Evaluation of 3D printing as suitable method for field predation model studies Brown anole (Anolis sagrei) Lizard models using 2 print media, covered in clay, and field-tested for predation ABS plastic, plastic-wood hybrid filament 17 This study
Thermal ecology
 Comparing thermodynamics of 3D printed and copper lizard models Texas horned lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) Thermal models of lizards ABS plastic 10 [13]
Tools—experimental areas
 Evaluation of 3D printed soil as suitable for fungal colonization Plant pathogenic fungus (Rhizoctonia solani) Artificial soil from 3D scans of soil with varying micropore structure Nylon 12 10 [33]
 Comparing hydraulic properties of 3D printed soil relative to real soil Soil Artificial soil from 3D scans of soil Resin (Visijet Crystal EX 200 Plastic Material) 14 [34]
 Microscale bacterial cell–cell interactions Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphlylococcus aureus “Designer” bacterial ecosystems that vary in size, geometry and spatial distance with exact starting quantities of P. aeruginosa and S. aureus Gelatin NR [47, 48]
 Effect of interstitial space on predator–prey interactions Blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) and Mud crab (Eurypanopeous depressus) Oyster shells aggregated into artificial reefs that varied in interstitial space configuration Polylactic or ABS plastic NR [36]
Tools—sampling equipment
 Collecting unobtrusive biological samples from whales Southern right, humpback and sperm whales Components to build an unmanned surface vehicle for oceanographic research (SnotBot) ABS plastic and nylon 1 [39]
 Tools for studying the impact of ambrosia beetles on trees Shot hole borer beetle (Euwallacea fornicatus) Components for entry devices and emergence traps ABS plastic 15 [38]
 Testing decoys vs real beetles to enhance trap capture rates Emerald ash borer beetle (Agrilus planipennis) Beetle decoy to use on traps ABS plastic 300 [12]
  1. NR not reported