A fossil of the sperm of an extinct worm species has been discovered recently by scientists. It is a half a billion year old sample.
The 50 million year old fossil of a cocoon of a mysterious worm shows evidence of its sperm intact within it. This happens to be the oldest sperm sample on the planet. It is an exciting find alright.
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When the fossil was analyzed beneath an electron microscope, the facts were clear as the light of day. Its spermatozoa was nearly preserved in its original form although in a very petrified state.
The cocoon had been found accidentally by an expedition that was visiting Seymour Island. The island was near Antarctica. Since sperm cells are relatively flimsy and delicate, they are a rare find in fossilized form.
The last time such fossilized spermatozoa were found it was from springtails caught up in amber. Their age was 40 million years. The worm sperm was a shocking discovery.
None of the scientists could even imagine that the worm spermatozoa would be present within its cocoon. But when they saw it with their own two eyes, they literally let out a guffaw.
Nature is always two steps ahead of us. And the miracles that we knew of in the past are being proven on a real time basis today thanks to the power and acumen of science. This fossilized sperm was seen thanks to the powerful electron microscope.
It would have been an invisible entity just half a century ago. Cocoons are an excretion of many worms and leeches. And their spermatozoa and eggs are often found in the form of packets within these sheltered enclaves. The cocoon then becomes impervious thanks to its natural evolution and serves to preserve its contents.
The exact type of worm whose spermatozoa was found within the cocoon remains a mystery though, according to Nature. Its structure was partially visible under the powerful lens, but many parts were left out thereby causing great confusion as to the “nature of the beast”.
It seemed to resemble the crayfish worm. However, these are normally found in the North, so why they were there in the southern hemisphere is something which has the researchers in a state of puzzlement.
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As for the DNA within the sperm, it is not viable enough to be taken out and experimented upon or even cloned. It is in a dead state. While the outer structure of the sperm and cocoon are intact, the inner cytoplasm and living material has long since expired and evaporated.