Turtles are not known for being fast at anything, yet fossilization has always thought to have been much slower than a turtle.  That is until now.

A rare and unique set of fossils were recently unearthed in the Messel Pit in Darmstadt, Germany, long known for its finely preserved fossils.  In early-1800s, an area near Messel, Germany was mined for it’s brown coal.  By the mid-1800s, they were mining oil shale as well as coal.  Around 1900, the open pit mine started attracting attention for its abundant fossils.  This was also the time when interest in fossils and dinosaurs became very popular.

In 1971, the price of oil had dropped to the point where mining for oil shale at the Messel pit was too expensive and the operation was shut down.  A cement factory was built at the site, but that failed and closed within a year.  Not seeing the scientific importance, the local government was on the verge of turning the abandoned pit into a garbage dump in 1974.  While preparing the pit to be filled in with man’s refuse, the government allowed many amateur fossil collectors to come and collect as much as they could.

Working feverishly to collect and preserve their finds, some of the amateur fossil collectors developed a method of preservation known as transfer technique.  This technique involves the use of plastic resins such as epoxy or polyesther to encase the fossil in.  This method helps to stabilize the rock substrate and preserve the fine detail of the fossils.  Transfer technique proved to be so successful that it is still widely used today to preserve fossils all over the world.

The landfill never did happen at the Messel Pit and in 1991 it was purchased by German government for scientific purposes.  Many of the fossils discovered at Messel were so exquisitely detailed and finely preserved using the transfer technique that in 1995, UNESCO declared it to be a World Heritage site.

Recently, one of the finely detailed fossils made news when it was discovered that a pair of turtles were perfectly preserved while in the process of mating.  Upon close examination, the tail of the slightly smaller male is curled underneath the female which is typical of the mating process.

The evolutionary story accompanying the report of the fossil find said that they believe the pair of turtles started their sexual interlude near the surface of the lake that once occupied the area about 47 million years ago.  While in the process of mating, they were overcome by toxic volcanic gases released into the water.  This caused the pair to sink to the bottom where they eventually were buried and preserved by the sediments in the lake.

The problem I have with this scenario, besides the erroneous date, is that turtles will easily separate during mating if disturbed.  If the sudden release of gases killed the turtles, it would have caused their muscles to relax which should have caused them to separate from each other as they sank to the bottom.  Lastly, animals that are slowly covered with sediment are not that well preserved.  If you look at the photo, you will see a lot of detail other than just the shell or bones.  This fossil had to have been rapidly buried.

Before you jump to the conclusion that they were buried by the Flood, I highly doubt that this was the case.  The rock layers they were found in are considered by most creation geologists to be post-Flood deposits.  I can’t say for certain what buried them, perhaps a sudden small local flood or some other means to cause a significant amount of sediment to bury them all at once before their bodies could relax and detach from each other.

If nothing else, it does prove that burial can happen so quickly as to preserve the delicate act of mating.  It’s that process of rapid burial that not only happened during the time of the Genesis flood, but in any subsequent local floods that have occurred since.  It’s also an example of how rapid catastrophic processes have helped shape and preserve a world and environment that once was.

 

Reference

Amos, Jonathan.  Turtles fossilised in sex embrace, BBC News, June 19, 2012.

Stones and Bones: Powerful Evidence Against Evolution

This booklet offers brief but satisfying answers to the major categories of evidence in the creation and evolution debate. You’ll find answers to questions such as,

* What happened to the dinosaurs?
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