Preserved in the Act and Fossilized Turtle Whoopie

This is really too good not to share immediately.  A recent study reports on numerous pairs of fossil turtle couples caught in the act of copulation.  The sex den  fossil sight is located in Germany and dates back to the Eocene.

How do they know this is male and female in a loving bond approved by the state of North Carolina?  The size difference gives it away and males possess longer tails that extend past the shell.

And how do they know these turtles were amidst sweet, sweet love (also approved by the State of North Carolina but not discussed in polite Southern company)?  The orientation of the male and female, the direct contact, and in two cases the tails of the male are wrapped below the shell of the female all point to turtle hanky panky. In general when male turtles intend to mate, they will wrap their tale, which contains their penis, around the females tails and eventually insert into her cloaca.

And lovers who perish mid coitus have a story

The preservation of mating pairs has important [implications], as it is unlikely that the turtles would mate in poisonous surface waters. Instead, the turtles initiated copulation in habitable surface waters, but perished when their skin absorbed poisons while sinking during [coitus] into toxic layers. The mating pairs..are therefore more consistent with a stratified, volcanic maar lake with inhabitable surface waters and a deadly abyss.

There you have it…the abyss is anti-turtle sex.

Dr. M (1730 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

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