Frozen in full Love!..47 million years old fossil of mating turtles found in Germany

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fossil-of-turtle-matingJune 21, Frankfurt: German palaeontologists have dug up the remains of nine turtle pairs that died while mating some 47 million years ago, sinking into poisonous waters while locked in a final embrace, a report said on Wednesday. This is the earliest evidence ever found mating in vertebrates, the authors of a study published Wednesday, June 20 in the journal Biology Letters of the British Royal Society.

These turtle pairs, Allaeochelys crassesculpta, extracted from the Messel Pit Fossil Site, a disused quarry shale located near Frankfurt (Germany). The species is now extinct. Beyond the anecdotal aspect of this deadlock, this discovery is instructive about these prehistoric freshwater turtles. It also provides information about conditions that existed at the site of Messel during the middle Eocene (40 to 50 million years), providing researchers.

“Millions of animals live and die every year and many enter the fossil record through serendipitous circumstances, but there really is no reason to enter the fossil record while you are mating,” co-author Walter Joyce told reporters about the rarity of the find.

“The chances of both partners dying at the same time is highly unlikely and the chances of both partners being preserved afterwards even less likely.”

The discovery at the Messel Pit fossil site between Darmstadt and Frankfurt in Germany allowed the team to deduct that the waters of the Messel Lake had been hospitable enough to allow turtles to live and mate.

But the animals died accidentally when they sank while locked together into deeper, poisonous layers, their skins absorbing the noxious substances in the volcanic lake.

“There is no doubt that this lake killed many unsuspecting animals,” said Joyce of the University of Tuebingen. The paper said animals do not typically die while undertaking daily routines like eating, brooding their nests or mating, leaving scientists to rely on conjecture to determine what their behaviour would have been like.

The authors think the “turtles initiated copulation in habitable surface waters (and) perished when their skin started to absorb poisons while sinking during their embrace into deeper portions of the lake made toxic from the build up of volcanic gases or decay of organic matter”.

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