Turtle Foreplay Video from Heinz Wildlife Refuge Goes Viral

"I put so much time and effort into my stand-up videos," says Philly comedian Jamie Pappas. "But of course it's the turtles I post that get all the attention."

one turtle slapping another -- a precursor to turtle sex -- at Heinz Wildlife Refuge

One turtle slapping another at Heinz Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, April 30th / Image courtesy Jamie Pappas

Like many Philadelphia residents, 29-year-old stand-up comedian Jamie Pappas woke up on Saturday morning determined to get outside and enjoy the glorious weather. So she left her South Philly home and drove to Heinz Wildlife Refuge, where she goes birdwatching just about every weekend. But on this particular Saturday, it wasn’t fine feathered friends that caught her attention. It was one turtle slapping another. Repeatedly.

Naturally, Pappas whipped out her phone to document this amusing behavior on video. She posted the turtle slapping video to Twitter. And because people on social media love looking at animals doing funny things, the footage went viral.

As of Monday morning, the video (seen below) had garnered 3.4 million views, nearly 59,000 retweets, and more than 358,000 likes on Twitter.

“I put so much time and effort into my stand-up videos,” Pappas told Philly Mag on Monday morning. “But of course, it’s the turtles I post that get all the attention… Of course, slapping seems to be a thing these days. Very in style.”

Once a comedian, always a comedian.

So what of this turtle slapping business? Well, it turns out that this is prime mating season for these horny hard-shelled reptiles, and the slapping is part of a courtship dance, says Heinz Wildlife Refuge biologist Garrett White.

“This video shows two Eastern Painted turtles in a courtship display,” White explains. “The male is the one doing the ‘slapping’.”

First comes the turtle slapping, says White. Then comes the turtle sex. Then the nesting. And then lots of little turtle babies.

According to White, the theory behind the slapping and other behavior you see in the video is that it’s the male’s attempt to show the female turtle his overall fitness, ability to maneuver in waters, and that he has nice claws. Because who doesn’t want nice claws in a sexual partner?