Sperm was found in the last place you would expect it: Antarctica. But this is exactly where researchers have found it. It doesn’t belong to any existing species, and it’s fossilized, so no DNA will be obtained from the discovery.
Although it is not going to move us any closer to cloning the ancient extinct species that scientists have always dreamed of cloning, it is a fascinating discovery which will give us insight about how our planet behaved long ago.
Whose sperm was left behind?
It isn’t mammoth sperm, or any kind of primitive homo sapiens predecessor sperm, but it is still a big step in discovering what the world was like as far back as 50 million years ago. The excretions found belong to a type of primitive earthworm that slithered around 50 million years ago, and experts say that the insight to be gained about ancient worm species is exceptionally valuable, “Here, we report the remarkable discovery of fossilized spermatozoa preserved within the secreted wall layers of a 50-million-year-old clitellate cocoon from Antarctica, representing the oldest fossilized animal sperm yet known.”
This is the oldest sample of fossilized sperm ever discovered, and promises to provide keys to unlocking the mysteries of the evolution of worm species which are still crawling around on earth today. Under only special circumstances can species such as this actually be observed due to the delicate nature of their composition, “Being very short-lived and delicate structures, spermatozoa are very rare in the fossil record.”
What we’ve learned from sperm
The sperm found in this cocooned creature in the arctic has a lot to teach us about life 50 million years ago. Scientists have already begun to observe the rare fossil, but many determinations are still pending further study, and conclusions can’t be drawn, but the speculation is that this is a species very similar to the modern crayfish worm. There is still much work to do with this exciting discovery, but scientists are overjoyed at the possibilities of a quasi-missing link worm, which could help to trace to evolution of an entire species closer to its origin.