Sex? It all started 385 million years ago (w/ Video)

October 19, 2014
Artist's impression of Microbrachius mating scene. Credit: Dr Brian Choo, Flinders University

It may not have been love as we know it, but around 385 million years ago, our very distant ancestors—armoured fish called placoderms—developed the art of intercourse.

So suggest a team of evolutionary scientists, who point to the fossil of a placoderm species blessed with the name of Microbrachius dicki.

Measuring about eight centimetres (four inches) in length, M. dicki lived in habitats in modern-day Scotland—where the first specimen was found in 1888—and in Estonia and China.

Placoderms have previously been found to be the most primitive jawed animal—the earliest known vertebrate forerunner of humans.

But they now have an even more honoured place in the book of life.

Microbrachius is the first known species to copulate in order to carry out internal fertilisation, according to a paper published on Sunday in the journal Nature.

Male fish had bony, L-shaped genital limbs called claspers which transferred sperm into the female, a more effective way of reproduction compared to spawning in the water, the study says.

The females, for their part, developed small, paired bones with which they locked the male organs in place in order to copulate.

"'Microbrachius' means little arms, but scientists have been baffled for centuries by what these bony paired arms were actually there for," said John Long, a professor of palaeontology at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.

"We've solved this great mystery because they were there for mating, so that the male could position his claspers into the female genital area."

The video will load shortly
Animation showing Microbrachius mating scence. Credit: Flinders University

Until now, it was thought internal fertilisation occurred much later in the evolutionary tale of vertebrates.

Covered with thick, bony plates covering the head and trunk, placoderms ruled the world's oceans, rivers and lakes for around 70 million years.

They were then were wiped out around 360 million years ago in a mysterious mass extinction.

For decades, they were deemed by many palaeontologists to be a curiosity—an evolutionary branch that failed.

But work by Long and others found them to be far more important.

The critters handed on features such as jaws, teeth and paired limbs that are seen today in reptiles, birds and mammals, including humans.

If the new study is right, the "claspers," over hundreds of millions of years, evolved into the penis.

Microbrachius' copulatory skill was uncovered last year when Long stumbled across a fossil in a collection at the University of Technology in Tallinn, Estonia.

Males and females probably had sex side by side, with their bony jointed genitals locked together, according to the new investigation.

"This enabled the males to manoeuvre their into the right position for mating," Long said.

The position looked, well, rather weird, he admitted.

"With their arms interlocked, these fish looked more like they are square-dancing the do-se-do rather than mating.".

Explore further: The first vertebrate sexual organs evolved as an extra pair of legs

More information: Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature13825

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25 comments

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orti
1 / 5 (4) Oct 19, 2014
Seems like a good start, but 380 and some odd mullion to get to face-to-face up close and personal?
Vietvet
4.4 / 5 (13) Oct 19, 2014
The folly of evolution. Virtually all postulation and no science. Claims millions of species magically evolved, but also has to explain about these "mysterious mass extinctions". No scientific evidence that humans came from placoderms, but evolutionary "scientists" somehow have to try explain this in order to fit their worldview.

Evolution is junk science.



Because the Bible tells you so.
orti
1.6 / 5 (9) Oct 19, 2014
verkle, life is adaptable. I suspect your objection is the extrapolation to "nothing else required". That's mine anyway.
orti
2.3 / 5 (9) Oct 19, 2014
Vietvet, that portion was addressed to the people of 3 or 4 thousand years ago. Human knowledge is chagable, other things are not. And you are made from the dust of the earth – see yourself not too many years from now.
Vietvet
4.6 / 5 (11) Oct 19, 2014
"when I die I'll rot in the ground like any other fucking animal"

Probably the most popular engraving on Zippo lighters while I was in Vietnam.

I've planned on becoming a cadaver, followed by cremation and my ashes scattered at sea.

In the end it is all stardust.
Vietvet
4.6 / 5 (9) Oct 19, 2014
@verkle
You have neither the intelligence nor the integrity to be commenting here. Your views are dogmatically faith based, free of any science.
Bob Osaka
2.3 / 5 (4) Oct 19, 2014
Has anyone reported that video as porn yet?
Asking what the mutation of the little arms were "for," seems an odd question. How the mutation was used to the success of the species would be a more appropriate inquiry. Couldn't the double headed penis have been used to impregnate more the one female at a time? Should leave those details for Prof. John A Long (project director) to ponder.
Which came first the chicken or the egg? The egg of course, predates the evolution of the chicken by a billion years, give or take.
210
1 / 5 (7) Oct 19, 2014
Ya know, these little creatures, as ancient as their remains suggest, actually appear too well developed to have been first. And if they were first, it would suggest, the need, for more than just survival drove this reproductive adaptation - the energy to mate could be argued or possibly shown to be higher than the amount needed to just divide. Competition may not have been present, yet, but, what I would like to see is whether, or not these little guys faced any kind of predation or were they top of their local foodchain, or were they short-lived....yes, being naturally short-lived they would probably have relatively higher metabolic rates, needed the nutrients of other living organisms-predation - as opposed to mingled browsing, nibbling on what is floating free; and therefore, needing to pass successful DNA on as others of their own kind failed - failed to adapt? To adapt to what?
Evolution did not create life; it is the diary of the life on a living planet.

word to ya muthas
OZGuy
4.1 / 5 (9) Oct 19, 2014
@verkle

Once again you have demonstrated why you shouldn't frequent science sites. Your arrogant ignorance and willful disregard for science is appalling.
210
1.6 / 5 (8) Oct 19, 2014
The folly of evolution. Virtually all postulation and no science. Claims millions of species magically evolved, but also has to explain about these "mysterious mass extinctions". No scientific evidence that humans came from placoderms, but evolutionary "scientists" somehow have to try explain this in order to fit their worldview.
Evolution is junk science.

I do understand your objections as here stated. Evolution is real. Quantum science is real. But both 'creation' and 'evolution' have a huge and common problem: They are subject to dogma, opinion, ideology, attitudes. SO many differing mind-sets have beset both religion and science it is a wonder they have not just either destroyed each other or gotten married!
I am not offended by your comments because the scientist in me says, " hey, we do need to prove the things we say" 'But How' is the pragmatist response. No, instead of trying to prove these events, we need to better understand INFLUENCES that make change.
210
1.7 / 5 (6) Oct 19, 2014

Which came first the chicken or the egg? The egg of course, predates the evolution of the chicken by a billion years, give or take.

The statement you pose is not bound by context; Historically it is always in the context of chicken reproductive activity, NOT the first occurance of an 'egg' per se! ' DID the chicken EGG come first or the chicken' is more elucidating. The question means to suggest, and frame a particular context, that chickens may not have always existed or that chickens did not always lay eggs - any way one looks at it, it can be seen that often the beginning of a thing began far away and long before it actually began or existed as it does when MAN sees or saw it; this is especially true when dealing with biological systems. A Billion years from now or from primal life, there still were NO CHICKENS but there were eggs! But still no answer to the question!! Eggs or birds came first (instead of chicken and egg- bird/egg) Yet much to learn we do

Word-
tekram
1 / 5 (4) Oct 19, 2014
Re: "'Microbrachius' means little arms but scientists have been baffled for centuries ...

The question is what does dicki stand for in Microbrachius dicki? Surely this can't be the first species with a double phallic name.

Huns
1 / 5 (4) Oct 19, 2014
"Small-armed creature named after Dick"

Hundreds of years go by and the whole time, no one realizes it was the first animal with an actual dick.
tritace
Oct 19, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
orti
1.3 / 5 (9) Oct 20, 2014
Vietvet,
"In the end it is all stardust."
Now there's a statement of faith – contra evidence. See circa 30AD for evidence.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4.7 / 5 (10) Oct 20, 2014
I think the creationists not understanding sex has outdone themselves this time. Creationism is junk religion. =D

But please lay off the references to silly religious myth. If you have historical evidence, bring that. It is an observable fact that we derive from stardust, whether we are alive or dead.

Nits: 1. Evolution is a process. Compare creationism, which is obvious non-mechanism magic.

2. No one said that humans evolved from placoderms. Placoderms were both paraphyletic "and comprise several distinct outgroups or sister taxa to all living jawed vertebrates ..." [ http://en.wikiped...acodermi ] So the fossils are unrelated to us. For one, cartilagounous fishes split in between. [ http://en.wikiped...erms.png ]

Take home message: internal fertilization evolved before placoderms or, more likely, is convergent.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4.7 / 5 (10) Oct 20, 2014
@Bob Osaka: Lizards, snakes (and turtles, crocs, birds?) have double hemipenises, but I doubt they do it that way, an unlikely scenario. OTOH there is a video out on how whale females _may_ be raped?/accept? double insertions. Little of what humans do sexually hasn't been done many times before.

@210: - Evolutionary mechanisms were involved in the emergence of life, since we see homologies to geophysical systems.

- Unsupported claims re science. We wouldn't have a working science, even less consensus methods, if opinion would be a huge problem.

- Biologically, eggs is a trait that precedes the speciation of birds.
210
1 / 5 (7) Oct 20, 2014


@210: - Evolutionary mechanisms were involved in the emergence of life, since we see homologies to geophysical systems.

- Unsupported claims re science. We wouldn't have a working science, even less consensus methods, if opinion would be a huge problem.

- Biologically, eggs is a trait that precedes the speciation of birds.


Nazi Germany used pseudo-science to justify race-hate and all their evil doctrine - opinion, dogma, agenda, ALWAYS creep into the picture..in ALL matters.

Evolution, DID NOT MAKE LIFE, spontaneous generation HAS BEEN debunked.

Eggs, were around, I said that...but BIRDS were not yet....and when birds ACTUALLY came into being and how, we yet debate.

Word-
Vietvet
5 / 5 (5) Oct 20, 2014
@210

Evolution, DID NOT MAKE LIFE, spontaneous generation HAS BEEN debunked.

Of course rotting meat doesn't spontaneously produce flies.

Are you suggesting abiogenesis needs a creator?
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (6) Oct 21, 2014
@210: Since you Godwinned yourself (trying to compare science with nazism), I'm not obliged to answer, you have to accept that I was correct and you wrong. [ http://en.wikiped...in's_law ]

But for others: evolution does not predict "spontaneous generation". We were discussing emergence of life, and I noted that we now know that the process of evolution was involved at the stage of the geophysical systems that life emerged from.

210 seems to agree that "chicken or egg" was resolved by evolution already before the stage of agreeing by Godwin.
SoylentGrin
4.4 / 5 (7) Oct 21, 2014
when birds ACTUALLY came into being and how, we yet debate.

Irrelevant.
The first creature we would call a chicken hatched from an egg.
Speciation is not a hard line. But before birds were around, there were eggs. Whatever species gave rise to birds hatched from eggs. It does not matter when they came about or their lineage (even though such issues are already pretty well known).
JVK
1.4 / 5 (8) Oct 21, 2014
Microbrachius dicki evolved appendages for copulation in order to carry out internal fertilisation. This links the 'nob ends,' which Brian Cox mentioned in an interview, from the British Isles to the continental English slang term for penis.

The misrepresentation of when sex started ignores its unicellular origins in yeasts with sexually differentiated cell types, and it focuses on morphological traits that automagically appeared sometime later as if the advent of sexual reproduction involved a 'dicki.'

See for comparison: http://www.hawaii...ion.html " Parenthetically it is interesting to note even the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has a gene-based equivalent of sexual orientation (i.e., a-factor and alpha-factor physiologies). These differences arise from different epigenetic modifications of an otherwise identical MAT locus (Runge and Zakian, 1996; Wu and Haber, 1995)."

Epigenetics = no dicki required.
qitana
not rated yet Oct 21, 2014
M.dicki
TulsaMikel
not rated yet Oct 24, 2014
Who has disproved evolution? I missed that paper.
I think they should claim Placoderms were the 1st to be successful at sex.The Placoderms ruled the oceans for 70 million years. At that time spawning was the normal way to reproduce. They might owe their success and domination over other species directly to their more efficient reproduction method.
JVK
1 / 5 (5) Oct 24, 2014
Who has disproved evolution? I missed that paper.


Thanks for asking. A series of papers since our 1996 Hormones and Behavior review about the molecular epigenetics of RNA-mediated events has shown that RNA-directed DNA methylation leads from ecological variation to ecological speciation via amino acid substitutions that differentiate the cell type of all organisms of all species.

See my comments on: Combating Evolution to Fight Disease
http://comments.s....1247472

and on RNA and dynamic nuclear organization
http://comments.s....1252966

See also: 'Oming in on RNA–protein interactions
http://genomebiol...15/1/401

"...the interactions between pre-mRNA and proteins fine-tune alternative splicing in a manner that can gradually create new protein functionalities without the need to create additional genes and without affecting existing proteins [4-6]."

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