Ancient fish were the first animals ever to have sex

Oct 20, 2014

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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5 comments on “Ancient fish were the first animals ever to have sex

  • @OP- Ancient fish were the first animals ever to have sex

    Scientists have traced the roots of sexual reproduction and found that it all started in armoured placoderm fish, 385 million years ago.

    Yet another article citing valuable research, where the title is rubbish and the follow-up writing of the article not much better! !

    The “first vertebrate” does not equate to the “first animal”!

    Likewise, “first copulation”, does not equate with, “first sexual reproduction”!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_sexual_reproduction#Origin_of_sexual_reproduction

    In the eukaryotic fossil record, sexual reproduction first appeared by 1200 million years ago in the Proterozoic Eon.



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  • This is also apparently the first account of a male species suffering from future performance anxiety after being saddled with the name Microbrachius dicki.

    Micro dicki. Really?



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  • Surely paramecium conjugation and coral eggs and sperm would have predated fish.

    Modern day fish have quite a bit of variety in how gametes get together from scattering, to close swimming, to nests, to insertion.



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  • Thats why the article title is wrong. It should read “first animals to copulate”. Also these fish were not our ancestors. This adaptation died out only to re-emerge a few tens of millions of years later in our ancestor species.



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