Communist turtles got to moon first

Alexis Madrigal writes: "The Soviet Zond 5 sent the animals around the moon -- although not into lunar orbit -- during a mission in the middle of September, 1968. The unmanned craft then returned to Earth and splashed down in the Indian Ocean, after which the Russians recovered the craft." The turtles were fine.

Some thoughts on subspecies and the death of Lonesome George

The giant tortoise is dead, long live the giant tortoise. (Via Brian Switek)

Turtles killed, fossilized while doing it

Teenagers, beware! Here is another very good reason to never, ever have sex. Like these 50-million-year-old turtles, you could get so caught up in the act, that you don't notice you are sinking into a bog full of toxic volcanic gasses. It's a real risk! This happened to more than one pair of filthy, sex-having turtles. And condoms will not save you.

The researchers analyzed nine pairs of the turtles. Each pair was apparently made up of a male and a female — the females are slightly larger than males, have shorter tails and apparently had a hinged lower shell that may have helped them lay large eggs.

In addition, the turtles in each pair always had their rear ends oriented toward one another. Finally, in two of the pairs, "the tails of the partners are aligned with each other," Joyce said. "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," Joyce said.

Read the rest of Charles Q. Choi's story at MSNBC

Via Emily Anthes

Sir Thomas Turtleton the turtle free at last

A turtle of the same species as Sir Thomas. Photo: Brocken Inaglory (cc)

A Cayman Island turtle farm is to release a 60-year-old turtle, Sir Thomas Turtleton, in honor of Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years on the throne. Sir Thomas weighs 600 lbs and has enjoyed a 30-year career as a stud turtle. From the press release:

As part of the Tag and Track programme, Green Sea Turtles fitted with satellite transmitters are released into the ocean and monitored online. When the animal surfaces during a transmission period, the tag sends a signal to a satellite, indicating its location.

As Sir Thomas Turtleton travels following his release, the team at the Cayman Turtle Farm will be able to use the data as signs that he has successfully survived the re-introduction to the wild, and scientists, both at the Farm and in like-minded organisations around the world, can view and assess the turtle's migration path.