Somewhere in the Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil Site, there must be a cave drawing of two prehistoric humans laughing and pointing to a drawing of a giant sperm from a tiny shrimp. The site is where – you guessed it – a team of researchers found 17 million-year-old preserved giant sperm from tiny shrimps.
These are the oldest fossilized sperm ever found in the geological record.
Microscopic analysis (when it comes to shrimp, is there any other kind?) of the fossils of the freshwater crustaceans known as ostracods revealed preserved internal organs , including sexual organs which contained the giant sperm cells and the nuclei that once held chromosomes and DNA.
For joke-loving cavemen, it got better. The giant 1.3 millimeter sperm is actually longer than the male shrimp’s body and was kept tightly coiled inside the Zenker organs – chitinous-muscular pumps – until a sexy female swam by.
If this whole story sounds bat-sh*t crazy, Dr. Archer confirms in the study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B that it is.
About 17 million years ago, Bitesantennary Site was a cave in the middle of a vast biologically diverse rainforest. Tiny ostracods thrived in a pool of water in the cave that was continually enriched by the droppings of thousands of bats.
Actually, it’s not so crazy. That bat guano left high levels of phosphorous in the water which helped mineralize and preserve the shrimp’s soft tissue, as well as other unusual fossils such as perfectly preserved leaves and marsupial eyeballs found at the site.
Two horny shrimp covered in bat sh*t walk into a bar …