Sydney, July 14 (ANI): Scientists have discovered a 400 million-year-old reproductive organ in an ancient fish specimen, which is the oldest penis-like structure found yet.
According to a report by ABC News, earlier this year, the team, led by Australian palaeontologist Dr John Long, predicted some ancient fish from the Devonian era, had an attachment to their pelvic bone, which were used by males to fertilize females.
“When we announced we’d found some structures in the pelvic fin that suggested copulation, we hadn’t found the business end of how they were doing it,” said Long.
Now, the team has identified a long clasper, made entirely of bone, on another fish specimen.
Long said that the claspers were used by the ancient fish, an extinct class of armoured fish called placoderms, to grip inside the female while they were mating.
“It’s a pretty big find because placaderms were the dominant fish for 70 million years, but we knew nothing about their reproduction,” he said.
He said that their work earlier this year suggests the reproductive structure in the dominant group of placoderms, called arthrodires, was similar to present day sharks.
“Now, we’ve actually found it, a specimen with an undoubted clasper with a knobbly end,” he said.
Study author and palaeontologist Dr Kate Trinajstic, of Curtin University in Perth, said that the clasper was discovered in a fish specimen uncovered in the Gogo region of Western Australia in 2001.
She said that the team originally discounted the bone as the reproductive organ because they thought it was part of the pelvic gurdle.
On closer inspection, Trinajstic says they realised it was a sexual organ. “We were surprised because it’s so big. We were expecting something smaller,” she said.
Trinajstic said that he clasper, which was attached to the pelvic organ would have been erectile. “It penetrates the female, and acts like a funnel, allowing the transfer of sperm,” she said.
She said that the ancient fish had quite advanced reproductive systems considering sharks today have a similar system.
According to Trinajstic, the discovery of the clasper now allows scientists to identify the sex of other specimens of ancient fish.
“That sounds like a basic thing, but we haven’t been able to do that before,” she said. (ANI)