Microbrachius dicki – which lived in ancient lakes – are the first-known animal to reproduce by having sex instead of spawning.
By Shaun Gibson : @ShaunyNews
Is Science cool or is science cool?
Ancient armoured fish pioneered sex as we know it some 385 million years ago in what is now Scotland, scientists say.
The Microbrachius dicki – a bony 8cm-long fish which lived in ancient lakes – is believed to be the first-known animal to reproduce by having sex instead of by spawning.
The research is published in the journal Nature, and if confirmed would stand as one of the major breakthroughs in understanding the history of reproductive biology.
Fossils show that the males developed bony L-shaped genital limbs called claspers.
These transferred sperm to females, which developed paired bones to lock the male organs in place during sex.
The fish belonged to the placoderm group – the earliest vertebrate ancestors of humans.
Palaeontologist Dr John Long, who led the research, said: “Placoderms were once thought to be a dead-end group with no live relatives, but recent studies show that our own evolution is deeply rooted in placoderms and that many of the features we have – such as jaws, teeth and paired limbs – first originated with this group of fishes.”
He said the discovery shows “they gave us the intimate act of sexual intercourse as well.”
The breakthrough came last year when Dr Long found a single fossil bone in the collections of Estonia’s Tallinn University, which caused him to gather an international team of scientists to analyse fossil specimens from across the world.
The research paper also said the fish likely copulated from a sideways position due to the shape of the male gentitals.
Dr Long – from Flinders University in Australia – added: “These L-shaped claspers on the male would reach to the centre of the female, where she had two little genital plates which were pretty rough, a bit like cheese graters, so that they could lock the male clasper into position like velcro.
“This enabled the males to manoeuvre their genital organs into the right position for mating.”
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