Prehistoric sperm found trapped inside amber
By T.K. Randall
September 16, 2020 · 6 comments
Amber can contain a treasure trove of preserved specimens. Image Credit: PD - Sebakoamber
Scientists have identified 100 million-year-old sperm cells perfectly preserved within fossilized tree resin.
The cells, which are several times the size of human sperm, belonged to tiny creatures measuring a mere 0.6mm across - a class of microcrustaceans known as ostracods which still exist today.
Particularly notable about these creatures is their penchant for producing sperm that is up to ten times larger than themselves - a feat made possible by the way it twists and tangles up into small balls.
The amber was found to contain 39 individual creatures, as well as their giant sperm.
"The fact that the seminal receptacles of the female are in an expanded state due to being filled with sperm indicates that successful copulation had taken place shortly before the animals became entrapped in the amber," the study authors wrote.
A discovery like this - with soft tissues preserved so well for so long - is particularly rare.
The find also shows how little these microcrustaceans have changed in millions of years.
"The male clasper, sperm pumps, hemipenes and female seminal receptacles with giant sperm of fossil ostracods reveal that the reproduction behavioural repertoire, which is associated with considerable morphological adaptations, has remained unchanged over at least 100 million years," the study authors wrote.
Source: Science Alert
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