Image: Flinders University
By Neha Karl
A team of researchers from Flinders University in Australia have studied male fossils of the ancient Scottish fish, Microbrachius dicki, and made a breakthrough discovery – large bony L-shaped claspers used for transferring sperm to the female. They also found that the females had a small bony structure at their rear to help dock the male organs into position for mating.
The fascinating findings were published today in the journal Nature, and represent the first use of internal fertilisation and copulation for vertebrate animals, including humans.
The unique anatomy of the fish suggests that they probably mated side by side, with their bony jointed arms locked together. The study also highlights the first time in vertebrate evolution that males and females had distinct differences in their reproductive structures to assist with mating.
“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,” said John Long, lead researcher, as reported by ABC. “This enabled the males to manoeuvre their genital organs into the right position for mating.”
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