Header

UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

Caught in the act: the first record of copulating fossil vertebrates


Joyce, W G; Micklich, N; Schaal, S F K; Scheyer, T M (2012). Caught in the act: the first record of copulating fossil vertebrates. Biology Letters, 8(5):846-848.

Abstract

The behaviour of fossil organisms can typically be inferred only indirectly, but rare fossil finds can provide surprising insights. Here, we report from the Eocene Messel Pit Fossil Site between Darmstadt and Frankfurt, Germany numerous pairs of the fossil carettochelyid turtle Allaeochelys crassesculpta that represent for the first time among fossil vertebrates couples that perished during copulation. Females of this taxon can be distinguished from males by their relatively shorter tails and development of plastral kinesis. The preservation of mating pairs has important taphonomic implications for the Messel Pit Fossil Site, 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 into toxic layers. The mating pairs from Messel are therefore more consistent with a stratified, volcanic maar lake with inhabitable surface waters and a deadly abyss.

Abstract

The behaviour of fossil organisms can typically be inferred only indirectly, but rare fossil finds can provide surprising insights. Here, we report from the Eocene Messel Pit Fossil Site between Darmstadt and Frankfurt, Germany numerous pairs of the fossil carettochelyid turtle Allaeochelys crassesculpta that represent for the first time among fossil vertebrates couples that perished during copulation. Females of this taxon can be distinguished from males by their relatively shorter tails and development of plastral kinesis. The preservation of mating pairs has important taphonomic implications for the Messel Pit Fossil Site, 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 into toxic layers. The mating pairs from Messel are therefore more consistent with a stratified, volcanic maar lake with inhabitable surface waters and a deadly abyss.

Statistics

Citations

14 citations in Web of Science®
15 citations in Scopus®
Google Scholar™

Altmetrics

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Paleontological Institute and Museum
Dewey Decimal Classification:560 Fossils & prehistoric life
Uncontrolled Keywords:Testudines Carettochelyidae Carettochelys insculpta taphonomy ethology
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:22 Jun 2012 08:09
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 14:28
Publisher:The Royal Society
ISSN:1744-9561
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2012.0361

Download

Full text not available from this repository.
View at publisher