The Beginnings of Sex

So, apparently my generation didn’t actually invent sex after all.

From a recent IO9 article:

Scientists from Flinders University in Australia say they have identified the first example of penetrative sex in evolution. And wow, was it ever weird.

Weird sex? Count me in.

The new study, which now appears in the journal Nature, describes the copulation technique of an ancient, armored fish called placoderms that lived about 385 million years ago in Scotland. Placoderms, a primitive jawed vertebrate, are the earliest vertebrate ancestors of humans. The study’s lead author, John Long, discovered the mating abilities when he stumbled across a single fossil bone in an Estonian collection.

Scotland. I don’t know why I find that so amusing…

Note: If you do not believe in evolution, then perhaps now is a good time to jump to another blog.

The male member of the species, Microbrachius dicki (yes, really), evolved bony L-shaped genital limbs called claspers that transferred sperm to females; in turn, females developed small paired bones that locked the male organs in place for mating. It’s considered the first example of a reproductive technique in fish that doesn’t involve spawning, and the first use of internal fertilization and copulation as a reproductive strategy known in the fossil record. (italics added)

Reproductive Strategy would make a great name for an indie band.

“The very first act of copulation was done sideways, square-dance style. The little arms are very useful to link the male and female together, so the male can get this large L-shaped sexual organ into position to dock with the female’s genital plates, which are very rough like cheese graters. They act like Velcro, locking the male organ into position to transfer sperm.”

I’ve been locked down with Velcro before, and it ended up pretty much the same way.

There’s a video that shows how this likely was accomplished. The fish mating, not me in bondage, that is.


Interestingly, this copulation technique did not last. As fish evolved they reverted back to spawning. It took another few million years for copulation to return, reappearing in ancestors of sharks and rays.

So, intercourse evolved in fish – which were primarily the only vertebrae at the time – but not being able to find a comfortable position, they eventually gave up. I’m sure there’s a lesson here for us.


I don’t think that there are any pictures of me in Velcro bondage, but here’s a nice shot of London Andrews to remind us of why we’re glad that things evolved the way they have.



About Tom Allen

The Grey Geezer Dauntless defender of, um, something that needed dauntless defending. Dammit, I can't read this script without my glasses. Hey, you kids, get off my damn lawn!
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One Response to The Beginnings of Sex

  1. Steve says:

    Well Im Scottish and its good to know that we were there first . I can also reveal that our technique hasn’t changed all that much in 385 million years (lmao)


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