Extinct turtles caught having sex
Wed, 20 Jun 2012 4:29p.m.
By 3 News online staff
Extinct turtles have been caught having sex in Germany.
Researchers believe the turtles (Allaeochelys crassesculpta) were mating 47 million years ago when they may have sunk into deeper, more toxic layers of a lake.
Nine pairs of the turtles were analysed and found to be made up of a male and a female. The females are slightly larger than males and have shorter tails.
"They would have looked very similar to their closest living relative, the pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) from New Guinea and Australia, just much smaller," lead researcher Walter Joyce, a fossil turtle expert at the University of Tübingen in Germany, told LiveScience.
Two of the pairs were discovered with their tails 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," said Joyce.
The discovery was made at the Messel Pit in Germany - once was a deep volcanic crater lake in a wet, tropical environment.
Other fossils have been found there, including early horses, reptiles, primates, honeybees, giant ants and countless birds and bats.
Over the years the pit 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.
Modern-day turtles often begin mating in open waters and sink during copulation.
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