Fossilized Turtle Sex at Messel Pit

Amazing archaeological find at the Messel Pit in Germany: Turtle sex act frozen in time, “the first known case of animals with backbones found copulating in the fossil record”.

Turtle Fossils Having Sex

Diggers have found nine pairs of turtles in mating poses at the site. Does this mean that both turtle sex partners died during or right after the fun? Apparently that’s exactly what it means, according to fossil turtle expert Walter Joyce.

“The chances of both partners dying while mating are extremely low, and the chances of both partners being preserved as fossils afterward even lower. These fossils show that the fossil record has the potential to document even the most unlikely event if the conditions are right.”

The very fact that so many turtles died while mating at Messel Lake suggests something odd was going on there. Joyce and his colleagues suggest the permeable skin that may have helped these turtles breathe underwater may have accidentally doomed them.

Today, turtles often begin the sex act in open waters, sinking during copulation. The researchers suggest that while the upper layers of Messel Lake were hospitable enough to allow turtles to live, its deeper layers may have been a toxic death trap, perhaps from the buildup of volcanic gases or poisonous decaying organic matter. Such an embrace would have proved lethal for many turtle couples at this lake, Joyce said.

There’s a safe sex lesson in there. Everyone likes having sex at the lake, but check for a buildup of volcanic gases before things get too hot and heavy.

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