Fossils have given us a window into everything from the life of the Tyrannosaurus Rex to where ancient oceans once covered continents. But a huge scientific find for turtle sex? That's a new one.
Nine pairs of turtle fossils, caught in the act, were found in a Messel Pit in Germany—the first-ever fossil find of mating turtles.
Scientists believe the small, now-extinct species of turtles sank deep into the lake while having sex about 50 million years ago. Once they got so deep, the turtles were apparently trapped in volcanic gases at the bottom of the lake.
Until this find, no animals with backbones had ever been found doing the deed in fossil form, which makes these eternally sexy turtles a big find. Lead researcher Walter Joyce explains, via HuffPost:
"We are finding animals that died while mating. Tthe 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 ... No other vertebrates have ever been found like these, so these are truly exceptional fossils. The chances of both partners dying while mating are extremely low, and the chances of both partners being preserved as fossils afterward even lower. These fossils show that the fossil record has the potential to document even the most unlikely event if the conditions are right."Scientists say the turtles likely sank so low and became trapped because this species possessed a permeable skin that helped them breathe underwater. So, instead of starting the mating ritual in open water and then sinking, they started the deed already underwater and ended up too deep before they were ... finished.