I guess everything is bigger, stranger and scarier in Australia. Australian scientists have found the world’s oldest fossilized sperm in a fossil dug up in Northern Queensland. It’s very well preserved for being 17 million years old and, relative to the size of the animal that produced it, pretty darned impressive.
The sperm is only a couple of millimeters long, but it’s as long as the freshwater shrimp, called an ostracod, that it came from. So eww.
”99.9 per cent of organisms who have sperm have, relative to their body size, small sperm [because] you’ve got to tuck them away in a little jiblet somewhere in your body,” said palaeontologist Michael Archer, who along with three other researchers dug up the fossil where the sperm was found all the way back in 1988.
The sperm was recently found by German researcher Renate Matzke-Karasz, who used a synchrotron, which is a kind of particle accelerator, to scan the inside of the fossilized shrimp and discovered that many of its soft tissues “including the sperm cells coiled inside the sex organs and the muscular pumps that thrust the sperm into the female.”
Scientist found about 800 preserved ostracods in limestone on the site, which was at one point an ancient cave. Only five had well-preserved soft tissue.
The ancient ostracod turns out not to be that much different than its modern-day descendants. I guess if you’ve got giant sperm, you stick with it. If only to keep your bragging rights.
[Source: The Sydney Morning Herald]
Images by Renate Matzke-Karasz and R. Smith