A total of nine pairs of the fossil carettochelyid turtles Allaeochelys crassesculpta were recovered from the site, with two pairs while in the mating embrace. Photo credit: Senckenberg Naturmuseum Frankfurt
German scientists have discovered fossilized aquatic turtles that died while mating some 47 million years ago. The scientists made the find in the Eocene Messel Pit Fossil Site between the cities of Frankfurt and Darmstadt in Germany. The site, a UNESCO World Heritage designated area, has revealed a wide array of fossil animals and plants, and this find marks the first instance where fossil reptiles were discovered in the act of mating. A total of nine pairs of the fossil carettochelyid turtles Allaeochelys crassesculpta were recovered from the site, with two pairs in the mating embrace.
According to a paper that was published by the scientists in the journal Biology Letters, the fossilized turtles apparently began copulating in the upper reaches of a lake, where the waters were clean, and sank to the bottom of the lake during the courtship, succumbing to the poisons in the deeper waters.
According to the paper, the female Allaeochelys crassesculpta were larger than the male and had shorter tails as well as a hinged lower shell that helped in the laying of large eggs. The turtles were about 8 inches long and the scientists speculate that they resembled the pig nose turtle that can be found in New Guinea and Australia.
The full paper can be viewed here.