Science and Tech
What Are These Strange and Spooky Science Images?

Marshall Lemon | 27 Oct 2014 16:00
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Yup, this is a fossilized set of remains; that's the easy part. But what's so special about it? What you're seeing is possibly the first species on Earth that ever had sex. At least the kind that didn't involve dumping eggs outside of your body to fertilize them.

Given the name Microbrachius dicki (settle down, class), this fish lived in the ancient waters of Scotland roughly 385 million years ago. Fossils from the area are surprisingly common, but only recently have scientists noticed that the L-shaped appendages are actually male genitals. Unusual, but it's enough to suggest that sex may have been invented in Scotland. Who knew?

Just like any first time, sexual encounters for this species were clumsy and awkward. The only possible way M. dicki could mate was sideways, using arm-like fins to keep from drifting away from each other while male claspers and female plates locked their genitals into place like velcro. While creative, this wasn't exactly effective compared to other fertilization methods of the era, so fish went back to egg-spawn mating and left the copulation formula for other species to improve upon.

In other words, these fish were into sex wayyy before sex was cool. That gives them some evolutionary hipster street cred at the very least.

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