World premiere: designing a 3D model of a sea turtle

For nine months, the manager of the Centre d'Études et de Soins pour les Tortues Marines (CESTM) at the Aquarium La Rochelle has been working on the creation of a life-size anatomical model of a sea turtle: a world first! Designed thanks to modeling and 3D printing, this precious tool will be used in particular during training sessions for correspondents operating on the Channel-Atlantic coast or for professional fishermen in order to allow a better care for turtles in distress.

A necessary innovation

During the training courses provided by CESTM or during awareness sessions for the general public, the manager of the centre realised that a tool was missing.

The existing models were too imprecise and minimalist: the skeleton was only partially represented and the organs often not removable.

Indeed, the anatomy of this marine species is complex. When handling them, one must be particularly careful! For example, the heart of marine turtles is located just under a bone called entoplastron, in the shape of a dagger. Incorrect handling could result in the death of the animal.

Thanks to this three-dimensional tool, other points of vigilance can also be highlighted, such as the fragility of the animal’s limbs or the importance of its backbone under which the lungs are located.

A long-term project

The model can be adapted to reproduce three different species: the Kemp’s ridley turtle, the green turtle and the loggerhead turtle. For their design, the researcher used images of previous residents. Former scans of Moana, released last summer, were used to create the bone part of this fake turtle. In total, nine months of research and 200 hours of printing were necessary, in collaboration with the La Rochelle companies Nove 3D and Volumics, as well as the Strasbourg company Visible Patient. The painting work, a real trompe l’oeil created by the artist Valérie Naulleau, took more than 235 hours.

The project was presented for the first time at the Marine Turtles France Group conference from 14 to 18 November 2022, during which the innovation received a great deal of praise and interest, particularly internationally!

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