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Palaeontology

Prehistoric sperm found trapped inside amber

By T.K. Randall
September 16, 2020 · Comment icon 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 | Comments (6)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Eldorado 2 years ago
A tree named Amber!
Comment icon #2 Posted by mesuma 2 years ago
I was trying to work out how T Rexs did it.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Susanc241 2 years ago
At first I wondered how a marine creature could possibly be caught up in sap from a tree...but apparently there are some land based crustaceans now so maybe there were back then. What do I know?
Comment icon #4 Posted by Big Jim 2 years ago
I admit, I was wondering how the tree got involved.
Comment icon #5 Posted by XenoFish 2 years ago
Comment icon #6 Posted by Carnoferox 2 years ago
The inclusion of marine invertebrates like these ostracods in the Burmese amber suggests that the forests were close to the coastline and may have experienced periodic flooding. There was even an ammonite found in another piece of†Burmese amber. https://sci-hub.tw/https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2020.1661 https://www.pnas.org/content/116/23/11345


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