100-Million-Year-Old Sperm Discovered in Amber

Research also sheds light on the cut open eggs of females.
Deniz Yildiran
Artist’s reconstruction of ostracods during intercourse by YANG DinghuaNanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology

A rare finding has been revealed by a research team from the Chinese Academy of Science in Nanjing -- that is the world's oldest animal sperm. 

Scientists believe that the specimen of the fossilized creatures found in a piece of amber is from 100 million years ago. The piece of amber was located in Myanmar. It is amazing how nature managed to preserve both a bundle of semen and the tiny little creature. 

It might paint a picture of a giant animal in your head but some of them are only as big as 0.00328084 feet (1 mm) and called ostracods, really tiny creatures living underwater. 

The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


In just one amber piece, 39 ostracods were revealed including males, females, and juveniles. They were too tiny that they had to go through an X-ray micro-computed tomography for three-dimensional frames of the crowded group's soft parts. It seems that the amber did a good job for a really long time

100-Million-Year-Old Sperm Discovered in Amber
Source: Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology

Above, you may see the 3D modeling of males which has revealed their claspers, sperm pumps, and hemipenes.

The mating process, as referred by the scientists, is not unusual. Males appear to have "fifth limbs" to grasp females before the intercourse. Whereas females have a paired vagina to match the males' two penises. 

As a result of the evolution to excel among other males, the sperm appears longer than the male itself, the study shows. What's more, ostracods do not typically resemble many other male species in terms of sperm quantities. They ejaculate less but bigger sperms.

Most Popular

“The results were amazing – not only did we find their tiny appendages to be preserved inside their shells, but we could also see their reproductive organs” explained Dr. He Wang, leading the research team. “But when we identified the sperms inside the female and knowing the age of the amber, it was one of those special Eureka-moments in a researcher’s life,” he continued. 

The research has also clarified that the ostracods are the most common fossils dating back to the Ordovician period and might lead the way if you ever decide to try exploring oil and gas. Soft parts are very rarely found in their fossilized calcified shells. Apparently, that is also what made the scientists very excited.

message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron