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Coitus Interruptus | Fossilized Turtles Caught in the Act

Modern Day Pig-Nosed Turtle
Credit: pitcharee

Talk about having a bad day… fossilized turtles caught in the act – yes, the act of having sex. Researchers can only speculate, but one possibility of a death trap during copulation was when the mating turtles were caught as they sank to deeper layers of the lake nearly 50 million years ago. The lake’s deep layers may have held deadly volcanic gases or other toxins.

The fossils were discovered at the Messel Pit in Germany which once was a deep volcanic crater lake in a wet, tropical environment. It has become the richest site in the world for understanding the living environment of the Eocene, the epoch between 57 million and 36 million years ago when mammals began conquering the planet. Other animals discovered there include early horses, reptiles, primates, honeybees, giant ants and countless birds and bats.

Researchers focused on 47-million-year-old specimens of an extinct turtle (Allaeochelys crassesculpta) found at the pit. These were rather small turtles, about 20 centimeters (8 inches) long.

Credit: Naturmuseum Senckenberg in Frankfurt
One of nine mating pairs of the extinct turtle Allaeochelys crassesculpta found at the Messel Pit fossil site in Germany. The male (to the right) is about 20 percent smaller than the female.

Ancient Turtle Sex

The researchers analyzed nine pairs of the turtles. Each pair was apparently made up of a male and a female — the females are slightly larger than males, have shorter tails and apparently had a hinged lower shell that may have helped them lay large eggs.

In addition, the turtles in each pair always had their rear ends oriented toward one another. Finally, in two of the pairs the tails of the partners are aligned with each other. This is the very position in which the tails are held when living turtles mate. “This observation is the true smoking gun,” says lead researcher Walter Joyce, a fossil turtle expert at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

Today, turtles often begin the act of sex in open waters but frequently sink during copulation hence the theory of both instantaneously dying when they sank to a toxic level of volcanic gases.


For future reference, if you and your honey are getting lucky while swimming in a volcanic lake — stay near the surface, or you two may become the next set of fossils caught while making the two backed beast.

Credit: Naturmuseum Senckenberg in Frankfurt
The short tail of a female specimen of the extinct turtle Allaeochelys crassesculpta found at the Messel Pit fossil site in Germany. The tails of paired turtles were seen aligned with each other. This is the very position in which the tails are held when living turtles mate.

Credit: Naturmuseum Senckenberg in Frankfurt
The slightly curled tail of a male specimen of the extinct turtle Allaeochelys crassesculpta found at the Messel Pit fossil site.


Source and Related Articles:

Yahoo News: Coitus Interruptus: Ancient Turtle Sex Fossilized
Live Science: Tiny Orgy: Billions of Beasts Fossilized in Act of ‘Naked’ Sex
Live Science: Image Gallery: Dinosaur Fossils
Live Science: Top 10 Swingers of the Animal Kingdom
Live Science: Article: Q&A: Discoverer of Dead Gay Duck Sex

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5 replies »

  1. I think that me and my honey will stick with the volcanic features on land, or at the edge of the sea, and stay out of those volcanic lakes! (shudder!) Cause while it might not be so bad to go out with a bang, this is just not the way I’d want it to go down… And 47 million years from now, I’d just rather not have some future paleontologists examining and analyzing my endowment as well as my style, cause I know that I’d make a much better impression when doing it while alive and living, than I would after being dead for millions of years and fossilized!

    Why, that would be almost as bad as being Mick Jagger! Lol 😀

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