World's Oldest Sperm Found As Scientists Make 'Surprising' Find In Antartica


Nature never ceases to have a supply of wonders to surprise us with.

Its most recent offering hails from the Antartica, which as it turns out, has been hiding a natural treasure (of sorts): the world's oldest sperm cell.

According to Nature, the 50-million-year-old cell belongs to a species of worm and it was found in a fossilised cocoon by a team of researchers from the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

Bomfleur and his team used a scanning electron microscope to examine the cocoon and were "surprised" to find fragments of the sperm cell.

The cocoon is key to the reproductive cycle of earthworms and leeches, as it forms a hard protective case in which egg and sperm cells can fuse to form an embryo.

Bomfleur says they “laughed" after making the discovery “but in retrospect, it makes sense that you would find them as common inclusions in fossil cocoons”.

Finding a fossilised sperm cell is rare primarily because of its delicate structure, Nature reports.

While the researchers are not sure what type of worm this fossil belongs to, they say it can confidently claim the world's oldest sperm title -- previously held by a 40-million-year-old springtail fossil.


Aside from the research -- published in the Royal Society's Biology Letters -- uncovering a rather cool find, it gives biologists the hope of getting a more comprehensive fossil record.

Bomfleur explained:

"If it should turn out that we can get this information, all of a sudden we would basically unlock an entire fossil record for a group that hardly had any identifiable fossils before."

If you're hoping for a Jurassic World resurrection of the unknown worm, you will be sorely disappointed.

Researchers predict that there won't be any DNA fragments stored up in the cell, although the images suggest that the cell's internal structure has been preserved. Impressive.

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