100-million-year-old giant sperm found preserved in amber is oldest ever, scientists believe

Undated handout photo issued by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet showing a 3D reconstruction of a female ostracod. Scientists believe they have discovered the oldest fossilised animal sperm from around 100 million years ago inside a female ostracod. The female creature is thought to have mated shortly before becoming trapped in resin. PA Photo. Issue date: Wednesday September 16, 2020. See PA story SCIENCE Sperm. Photo credit should read: He Wang/Chinese Academy of Sciences/Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

100-million-year-old giant sperm found preserved in amber is oldest ever, scientists believe

Fossilised sperm discovered inside a mussel-like crustacean that was trapped in amber 100 million years ago may be the oldest ever found, scientists say.

The female ostracod was unearthed by an international team of palaeontologists. They believe it mated shortly before becoming trapped in the resin.

Their findings, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, provide “an extremely rare opportunity” to learn more about the evolution of the reproductive process, they added.

 

Until now the oldest known fossilised sperm resided inside a 50-million-year-old worm cocoon from Antarctica.

The crustacean, a new species called Myanmarcypris hui, is thought to have lived in coastal and inland waters in what is now Myanmar, surrounded by trees that produced huge quantities of resin.

A team led by Dr Renate Matzke-Karasz, a geobiologist at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich, analysed 39 ostracods trapped in a tiny piece of amber using 3D X-ray reconstruction.

Reconstructed images of the extraordinary find
Reconstructed images of the extraordinary find(PA)

The researchers found ripe giant sperm stored in a pair of receptacles inside the female ostracod, waiting for the eggs to mature, in what they said could also be the earliest direct evidence of a completed insemination.

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