German researchers have discovered the fossilized carcasses of nine pairs of tortoises that died while they were copulating, Remains of turtles mating 47 million years ago, officials reported on Wednesday.
This would, according to scientists, the first vertebrate fossils to be found in such a position.
“We are not aware of any other vertebrate animal that died during the act before being fossilized,” said Walter Joyce, a senior researcher at the University of Tubingen, Germany.
Turtles were found in an old quarry, south of Frankfurt, where tens of thousands of other plants and well-preserved fossils have been discovered.
Researchers believe that sea turtles (Allaeochelys crassesculpta) died suddenly when their skin has absorbed toxic substances in a volcanic lake as they sank into the water during copulation.
Their study was published Wednesday on the website of the Royal Society’s Biology Letters Journal.