Study: Sex Is 385M Years Old
First time was awkward, 'done sideways, square-dance style'
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2014 6:00 AM CDT
Updated Oct 20, 2014 7:23 AM CDT
Artist's rendering of Microbrachius mating.   (Dr Brian Choo/Flinders University)

(Newser) – Let's face it: Spawning in the water isn't terribly efficient or much fun at all. An extinct vertebrate named "Microbrachius dicki" sorted this out when it apparently became the first to master internal fertilization some 385 million years ago—far earlier than previously thought, reports Phys.org. And if the scientists reporting on their findings in the journal Nature are right, the primitive placoderms that ruled the world's waters for 70 million years sported hefty claspers that are the precursor to the modern penis. "Fundamentally, they could not have done it in the missionary position," one scientist tells the Guardian. "The very first act of copulation was done sideways, square-dance style."

Fossils show the antiarch male fish had bony, ever-rigid L-shaped organs that they steered between small, paired bones of the females, which the scientists liken to "cheese graters—very rough—so they act like Velcro, locking the male organ into position to transfer sperm." Paleontologists have long wondered about the purpose of the creature's small arms and now believe that linking arms helped the duos assume the proper position—giving an even stronger impression of square-dancing placoderm sex. (Ever wonder what sex has to do with dinosaur wings?)
 

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